Los Angeles Clippers closed the series in a 111-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks and, Kawhi Leonard led the way with seven assists and 14 rebounds. This was Leonard’s fifth straight playoff game with 30 points or more. Doc Rivers said, “You can tell he’s (Leonard) one guy that knows what it takes to close out a series.” The Clippers advance to the second round for the first time since 2015.
The Clippers went into halftime with a six-point lead and came out in the third quarter strong and never looked back. Leonard said they would enjoy this victory tonight and get ready for the next series. “You always celebrate. We can be going home right now. It’s one step closer to where we can get to. We enjoy tonight and get ready for the next team tomorrow.” In the second round, he mentioned the Clippers need fewer mistakes and focus on the things they need to do.
The unsung hero here for the Clippers was Ivica Zubac, who finished the game with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Rivers was asked about Zubac playing the best playoff basketball of his life, he laughed and said, “It’s the only playoffs of his life.” The numbers may not show, but he stepped up tremendously for his team. Leonard said, “He helped us out big time, the numbers might not always show it, his defense was amazing, finding his dunking spots, laying the ball up, making his free throws was pretty big.”
It’s been a challenging week for players, so spending time with the teammates has helped the Clippers. Leonard said, “Your teammates are your family. Spend time with them; we laugh, joke, and don’t take everything so seriously, just one day at a time.” His experience in the playoff guided the Clippers to the second round. “I’ve been the same player my whole career. I’ve been fortunate enough to get teams to win it.”
After the game, George spoke on Leonard’s leadership during the player’s meetings. “Kawhi is a man of business. He stepped up. He stepped in. Time after time, whenever we needed to meet, he put us on his back. Everybody knows Kawhi is a man of a few words. When he speaks, it’s coming from a great place. He’s going to get his point across, his demeanor and presence were felt. He was powerful in those meetings.”
Throughout the series, Marcus Morris has taken a lot of scrutiny for his high-level intensity and hard fouls. After a hard foul on Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Morris was ejected. Rivers said he don’t think he should have been ejected. “I think it was a reputation throw-out, and I got to live with it. I love Marcus’s intensity. He’s a tough guy, not backing down, and I love that in him.”
Morris said he’s not a dirty player. “As I said on my twitter, I hang my hat on coming into work every day doing my job and watching the film. I hang my hat on being a tough player. Game in and game out, guys see me and know it’s going to be a tough matchup, they know I’m going to give it my all, and I’m happy about that.”