After an historic series that saw the first six games won by the road team, Kawhi Leonard put an end to the streak and the Los Angeles Clippers protected home court.
Leonard recorded 28 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, Marcus Morris Sr. added 23 making a postseason record seven threes and the fourth-seeded Clippers defeated the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks 126-111, winning the first-round playoff series 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center in Game 7.
“It was a great win for us,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who improved to 4-0 in Game 7s of his coaching career as a head coach. “It showed a lot about our team.”
Los Angeles was battle tested and overcame an 0-2 deficit against Dallas and now will advance to the Western Conference semifinals to play the top-seeded Utah Jazz starting Tuesday night in Salt Lake City. The Clippers had a 1-2 record against the Jazz in the regular season.
“Game 3 when we’re down 30-11, I think we were one or two plays away from almost getting swept. We find something in us, resiliency,” said Nicolas Batum, who had 11 points for the Clippers.
Seven players finished in double figures for L.A., while Dallas had only six points off the bench. The Clippers had 27 bench points and made 20 threes, compared to the Mavs making 10.
Paul George added 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, Reggie Jackson added 15 for the Clippers.
Terance Mann had 13 and Luke Kennard had 11 after playing limited minutes early in the series.
“They made me proud. They’ve been doing it all season… It’s great to see them guys grow man. I’m very proud of them, very happy for them,” Morris Sr. said.
Luka Doncic had 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in a losing effort for the Mavs and finished the series with an incredible stat line of 250 points, 55 rebounds and 72 assists.
“He did everything. I don’t know how many 40-point games he had…Just doing it all for his team,” said Leonard.
Dorian Finney-Smith finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavs. Kristaps Porzingis had 16 and 11.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 11 points, making only 1 of 9 nine three-pointers for Dallas after scoring over 20 in each of the three wins.
“We’re very disappointed with the result of the series, obviously. I thought through the course of it there was a lot of growth, a lot of very valuable experience, but losing in the first round is something that we don’t like doing,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
“We all feel like we should have won the series,” Finney-Smith said. “If anybody comes in and says they don’t feel like we should have won, they’re crazy. We just couldn’t win at home.”
Doncic scored 19 of the Mavs 38 points in the first quarter and held a narrow 38-35 advantage over the Clippers through 12 minutes.
The Mavs outrebounded the Clippers 12 to 1 and outscored them 18-10 with points in the paint in the first.
Los Angeles bounced back and outscored Dallas 35-24 in the second and held a 70-62 lead at halftime, shooting 63 percent, while also making 11 of 19 three-pointers in the first half.
The Mavs outscored the Clippers 19-6 to open the third and took an 81-76 lead, but L.A. once again responded with huge runs of their own.
“We didn’t panic, we stayed locked and did what we had to do,” said Mann.
The Clippers answered with a 24-4 run that included 12 straight points to take a 100-85 lead going into the fourth.
“Game seven is the toughest game. You’ve got to give it everything,” Doncic said. “We’ve been in the playoffs twice since I’ve been there, lost both times. You get paid to win.”
With 1:59 remaining in the third, Leonard converted an and-one jump shot, making the free-throw, followed by Kennard making back-to-back three-pointers to end the period.
“”Everyone just brought it and played for one another,” said George.
Los Angeles led by as many as 19 in the fourth, but Doncic made his fifth three-pointer of the game to cut the Mavs deficit to seven, 107-114 with 2:06 remaining.
Jackson and Morris Sr. weathered the storm and made consecutive three-pointers to regain a double-digit margin and the Clippers held on to grab a 126-111 win.
“We just fought hard. We never gave up,” said Leonard.
Game 1 of the Clippers vs Jazz is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Salt Lake City.
“I think Dallas did a good job preparing us for the next series,” said Lue.