A rematch of the Western Conference first-round series from the bubble last year was on display between the number four seeded Los Angeles Clippers and number five seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Luka Doncic recorded 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a heroic effort and the Mavericks went on to capture Game 1 of the first-round playoff series in a 113-103 victory over the Clippers on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
“It’s a great effort, great win,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Dallas is now 28-0 after leading in the first quarter and they used an early hot shooting start to steal home court advantage away from Los Angeles.
“Start to the game was important, it gave us momentum. When they came back and took the lead in the second half, we really exhibited great poise, and we stayed aggressive. That’s what you got to do in a playoff series,” Carlisle added.
The Mavericks made six of their first nine shots and quickly captured a 24-12 lead, while the Clippers missed nine of their first 11 attempts.
Dallas shot 47 percent from three, making 17 of 36 shots while Los Angeles shot 27 percent on 11 of 40 attempts.
“We got to look at the film to see what the communication factor was out there, see where the miscues were and just move forward from there,” Leonard said.
The Clippers then outscored the Mavs 31-16 during the end of the first and midway through the second quarter to take their first lead of the game, 43-40.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 21 points and made five three-pointers, Dorian Finney-Smith had 18. Jalen Brunson and Kristaps Porzingis added 15 and 14 points, respectively for the Mavs.
Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, Paul George added 23 points after shooting 1-7 in the first half. The duo combined to make only 3 of 14 shots from three-point range.
Nicolas Batum and Rajon Rondo had 11 each while Patrick Beverley added 10 in 17 minutes of play.
“Early on I didn’t get him in positions to be successful,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said of George. “Kawhi had it going, so we rode him early on and PG kind of got out of rhythm.”
Doncic scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half, making 3 three-pointers to give Dallas a 60-55 halftime lead.
“He made some big shots, some deep shots, and that’s what great players do. We’re not going to get discouraged by that,” said Lue on Doncic.
Doncic had only one point in the fourth, making just a free throw, but admitted it was a great team effort late.
”We won the game,” he said. ”That’s all that matters for me.”
Leonard had a vicious dunk over Maxi Kleber that got the entire arena buzzing in the third, cutting the Clippers deficit to 75-73 with 3:59 remaining.
However, the Mavericks then closed the quarter on a 11-7 run to take an 86-80 lead into the fourth after Josh Richardson converted a lay-up at the buzzer.
George made a pull-up three-pointer in the fourth to give the Clippers a brief 89-87 lead with 9:00 remaining but Dallas quickly responded.
”We had a lot of bad plays, a lot of breakdowns, but when we were dialed in, we had a great stretch where we took over the game,” George said. ”That’s just got to be us all 48 minutes.”
George tied the game at 100-100 with 3:12 remaining but Dallas then went on to close the game out on a 13-3 run.
Finney-Smith made his fourth three-pointer of the night, Porzingis made a dunk and Brunson buried pivotal free throws in the closing minutes as the Mavericks defeated the Clippers 113-103.
”Our spirits are still high, and we believe in ourselves,” Leonard said. ”Nothing good comes easy.”
The Clippers will look to even the series up a 1-1 on Tuesday night at Staples Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.