Kawhi Leonard Drops 33 as Clippers Eliminate Luka Doncic, Mavs from Playoffs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) fouls Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77) during the second half of an NBA first round playoff game Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers are going to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign.

L.A. finished its first-round series victory over the Dallas Mavericks with a 111-97 win in Sunday's Game 6 at Walt Disney World Resort. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers in the latest effort and will now look to lead the team past the second round for the first time in franchise history.

As for the Mavericks, they were fighting an uphill battle without the injured Kristaps Porzingis and fell short despite another impressive performance from Luka Doncic.


Notable Player Stats

  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 33 PTS, 14 REB, 7 AST, 5 STL
  • Paul George, F, LAC: 15 PTS, 9 REB, 7 AST
  • Ivica Zubac, C, LAC: 15 PTS, 11 REB
  • Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 38 PTS, 9 AST, 9 REB
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, F, DAL: 16 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST


Clippers Defense, Kawhi Set the Tone

Leonard and Paul George are two of the best two-way players of their generation, and it was fitting they seized control of Game 6 and finally dispatched the Mavericks by setting the tone on the defensive end.

After a slow start, the Clippers held the Mavericks to 17 points in the second quarter and 23 points in the third quarter as they took the lead. The showing was all the more impressive considering Dallas led the league in offensive rating during the regular season, per NBA.com.

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Kawhi makes it look too easy. (via @LAClippers) https://t.co/0FUNC9u4W4

LA Clippers @LAClippers

.@kawhileonard makes a play. @landryshamet makes 'em pay. 👌🏾 https://t.co/dytKLPZWXm

LA Clippers @LAClippers

F R 🥶 Z E N R O P E @FoxSportsWest | @kawhileonard https://t.co/Q8st1HLcPf

LA Clippers @LAClippers

You gotta get up to throw down! @FoxSportsWest | @kawhileonard https://t.co/5fJ0Oxx7XT

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Kawhi vs. Luka in the 4th quarter https://t.co/vtf4ktrzIn

The Clippers swarmed to outside shooters and contested everything, holding the opposition to 11-of-37 (29.7 percent) shooting from three-point range. In doing so, they ensured the supporting cast around Doncic would not beat them.

They also made Doncic work for his looks by pressuring his ball-handling and creating five turnovers even as he put up excellent numbers elsewhere and helped Dallas remain within striking distance.

Outside of the teamwide defensive effort, Leonard stuffed the stat sheet by battling for boards, deflecting passes as he racked up steals, facilitating when doubles came his way and powering his way to the rim, sometimes through those doubles.

When the game was somewhat in doubt, he took over in the fourth quarter with an array of mid-range shots and unstoppable drives.

It was another reminder of how individually dominant he can be, and the team's ceiling only figures to be higher when Patrick Beverley returns to anchor the defense alongside him.


Luka's Impressive Series Comes to an End After Another Marcus Morris Sr. Confrontation

It didn't take long for another incident involving Marcus Morris Sr. and Doncic.

Morris was assessed a flagrant-2 and ejected in the first quarter for a hard foul above the shoulders. Teammates had to hold Doncic back, and the frustration with his opponent was apparent.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Marcus Morris was given a flagrant 2 and was ejected for this foul on Luka Doncic. https://t.co/Cr7iTOegJe

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No love lost between these two. https://t.co/5a2sF28pNQ

It wasn't exactly surprising either, as Morris grabbed and jawed at Doncic during Game 1, prompting Porzingis to come over to protect his teammate. Porzingis was given a technical foul and ejected since it was his second of the game, and the Clippers came back to win.

What's more, Morris jogged toward Doncic in Game 5 and stepped on the back of his left foot, knocking off his shoe.

There were questions about whether it was intentional, especially since Doncic was playing with a sprained ankle, but Morris tweeted the following: "I play this game with a level of respect for myself and other players. To think I would try to injure somebody is crazy to me. 10 years going against the best. I stand on morals and hard work. I compete  and leave it out there every game."

Despite yet another confrontation between the two right out of the gates Sunday, Doncic played well again in a series that further cemented his stardom at just 21 years old.

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Luka on PG. Filthy 😤 (via @dallasmavs) https://t.co/y1MDQ9qSxN

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Magic 🔮✨ https://t.co/XWPp56y1eG

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Luka floaters > ☁️ #MFFL | https://t.co/lKMJbWR6tf https://t.co/48HrzHGPub

Doncic never appeared overwhelmed by the moment in his first playoff series even going up against a team loaded with elite defenders. He mixed in floaters, step-back threes, a willingness to battle on the boards, head-turning vision and the ability to play through contact and exploit angles on his way to the rim all while dealing with an ankle injury and the absence of Porzingis.

The buzzer-beater three to cap off a 43-point triple-double in Game 4 was the highlight, but Doncic continued to prove he will be a force in the Western Conference for years to come with another notable performance.


What's Next?

The Clippers will face the winner of the series between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets in the second round, while the Mavericks turn their attention toward the offseason and putting additional pieces around Doncic.