Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Marcus Morris added 23 and the Los Angeles Clippers eventually won at home, finishing the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series on Sunday.
In front of a small but loud mixture of masked fans and cardboard clippings, the Clippers played what no team had managed in the first six games – to win at home. It was the first time in NBA history that the Road team won the first six games of a playoff series.
They were the fifth team in league history to lose their first two games at home and come back to win a playoff series.
“It was a great win for us,” said Tyronn Lue, who improved to 4-0 in the seventh game of his coaching career. “It showed a lot about our team.”
The fourth seeded Clippers reached the semifinals of the Western Conference for the second year in a row. They’ll be playing the top seeded Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City starting Tuesday night.
Luka Doncic had 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Mavs who haven’t won a playoff series since winning the NBA championship in 2011. He finished the series with 250 points, 55 rebounds and 72 assists.
Paul George added 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Clippers. Their backups exceeded Dallas’ reserves, 27-6, and received crucial contributions from Terance Mann (13 points) and Luke Kennard (11 points). Kennard had played on the series just four minutes earlier.
“You trusted me,” said Kennard. “We trusted each other.”
Eight behind at halftime, the Mavs outperformed the Clippers 19-6 to open the third and take an 81-76 lead. Doncic only had two points in the run, with Dorian Finney-Smith hitting two threes and Tim Hardaway Jr. adding another. Finney-Smith finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mavs won the first two games at the Staples Center before the Clippers tied with two wins in Dallas. The Mavs won Game 5 in LA and Leonard took the Clippers to a road win in Game 6 with a huge fourth quarter.
“We all feel we should have won the series,” said Finney-Smith. “If someone comes in and says we shouldn’t have won, they’re crazy. We just couldn’t win at home.”
The Clippers responded with a 24-4 sprint – 12 of them in a row – and led 100-85 in the fourth. Morris made three 3-pointers and Kennard hit a pair.
Leonard scored seven points, highlighted by a dunk from Georges Pass. Defensively, Leonard came up with a big block and Mann helped contain Doncic, who had the Mavs’ only points past the end of the third.
“Kawhi came with a mentality that he was going to win this game,” said Reggie Jackson, who added 15 points. “He wouldn’t be shy with his game at all. When he started early, the defense had to change.”
Dallas reduced their 19-point deficit at the start of the fourth game to seven points in Doncic’s fifth 3-pointer of the game with just under 3 minutes to go. But the Clippers’ own long-distance prowess carried them, with Jackson and Morris hitting 3s in a row for a 120-107 lead.
Doncic achieved his total score from Game 6 with 29 points in the first half on 10 of 14 shootings.
The Clippers produced a 19-13 run in which four players other than Leonard scored to go into halftime at 70-62.
Leonard is the fourth player in postseason history to score at least 200 total points while shooting at least 60% off the ground in a single series. The last player to do so was Shaquille O’Neal of the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.
Mavericks: Hardaway received a Flagrant 1 foul for knocking George down on a drive 37 seconds before the end. … Rick Carlisle dropped to 2-2 in the seventh game of his coaching career.
Clippers: Lue has won his first four games as a coach. Boston’s Red Auerbach won its first eight. … You had a rebound in the first quarter. … Markieff Morris of the Lakers was talking to his twin brother Marcus at halftime. … Six-time NBA champions Scottie Pippen and Chiney Ogwumike from the Sparks took part.
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