The LA Clippers arrived to Dallas down 0-2 with their future clouded in uncertainty but left with home-court advantage and momentum thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing the relentless style they envisioned when they joined forces.
For the second straight game, Leonard and George overwhelmed Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, combining to score 45 points in the first three quarters to help the Clippers even this first-round series at 2-2 with a 106-81 rout at American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks could not contain Leonard for the third straight game as the All-Star forward made 11-of-15 shots and had 29 points and 10 rebounds. And George scored 13-of-his-20 points in the second quarter when the Clippers opened a 48-29 lead with 6:58 left.
“I think we both have just done a great job of complementing each other,” George said of him and Leonard leading the Clippers back into this series. “[Leonard] has been all-out driving and attacking and putting pressure on their bigs at the rim. Myself as well. When he needs a break and a breather, now I am in attack mode. I think we are just doing a great job of countering each other.”
“This is ultimately what we wanted to get to — being able to share the court together and doing it on both ends together.”
This was what Leonard, George and the Clippers envisioned when the two All-Stars became Clippers during the summer of 2019.
Leonard is playing at the postseason level that made him the NBA Finals MVP for a second time when he led Toronto to a championship in 2019. He has been simply too strong and powerful for Dallas to stop, averaging 35.3 points in the last three games.
In leading the Clippers to the last two wins in Dallas, Leonard shot 24-for-32 combined in Games 3 and 4 and has done the majority of his damage on drives into the paint.
But his message to the Clippers after they lost the first two games of the series at home was to step things up considerably on the defensive end. Doncic labored through a nerve issue in his neck and shot 9-for-24 to finish with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. But the Clippers were thrilled with their ability to slow down the Mavericks’ other shooters who really shot lights out in Los Angeles.
Tim Hardaway Jr. missed 7-of-8 shots and scored just four points, Dorian Finney-Smith only had eight points and the Mavericks as a group missed 25-of-30 3-point attempts. In the first two games of the series, Dallas took home-court advantage by making 35-of-70 (50%) from behind the arc.
Since trailing 30-11 with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter of Game 3, the Clippers have outscored Dallas, 213-to-159. Now the Mavericks are the ones who have to find a way to turn things around or their season could come to an end quickly.
“We responded well,” Leonard said of the team heeding his message to play better defense. “Especially coming back from that [30-11 deficit] in Game 3.”
Leonard added: “The job is not done yet so we got to keep having that even-keeled mindset and get ready for the next one.”
The Clippers have pushed all the right buttons since they left Los Angeles, where they had no answer for Doncic. Clippers head coach Ty Lue went to a small lineup and inserted Nic Batum in for center Ivica Zubac when the Mavericks started off Game 3 hot. The move allowed the Clippers to be able to switch defensively on Doncic, who had his way scoring with Zubac in front of him.
Lue started Game 4 with Batum in the starting five for Zubac and the veteran forward responded with 10 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Batum said he studied film of Draymond Green and Boris Diaw in preparation on how to best use versatility as an undersized center.
With Batum helping on defense and moving the ball on offense, Leonard kept punishing the Mavericks with his drives, making his first five shots and scoring 10 points in the first quarter. George then took the second quarter over. Doncic tried to keep his team in it and had 15 points at the half but Kristaps Porzingis (who finished with 18 points) was the only other Maverick to score in double figures in the first half.
The Clippers pushed their lead to 79-51 with 4:42 left in the third as they took home-court advantage and all the momentum in this series back with them to Southern California.
Lue said the Clippers would show who they truly are in Game 3 with their backs against the wall. They backed his vow as Batum said the Clippers never panicked despite being down 0-2 in the series and trailing 30-11 in the opening minutes of Game 3.
“I mean, we knew our mistakes,” Batum said. “We just had to adjust. We knew what we had done wrong.”
“It’s just 2-2,” Batum added. “We are right where we’re supposed to be. We are supposed to be at 2-2 technically. So now got to go home and take care of the home court and take care of this game on Wednesday or we can put ourselves in a bad situation if we don’t do the job on Wednesday.”
Kawhi Leonard once again ‘leading the way’ for LA Clippers, who even series with Utah Jazz at 2-2
Leonard’s powerful second-quarter slam put the exclamation point on a first half that saw the LA Clippers lead by as many as 29 points before evening their Western Conference semifinal series with the Jazz at two games apiece with a 118-104 victory at Staples Center on Monday night.
While the Clippers won their second straight game in blowout fashion to give them all the momentum, Ty Lue’s team heads to Utah with some concern over Leonard’s health. The Clippers’ franchise player came up gimpy after driving to the basket while being fouled by Joe Ingles with 5:25 left in the game. Leonard leaned over before briefly grabbing his right knee. Leonard left the contest with 4:35 remaining and didn’t return.
“I’m good,” Leonard would only say when asked about his knee. “Next question.”
Lue believes Leonard will be fine for Wednesday’s pivotal Game 5 at Utah.
“Yeah, I think so,” Lue said. “We’ll know more after the game, but yeah, I think everybody is pretty good.”
For the second straight game, the Jazz had no answers for Leonard and Paul George. Both Clippers All-Stars scored 31 points each. In the first half, Leonard had 19 points, George scored 15 and Marcus Morris contributed 22 of his 24 points. Those three Clippers combined to outscore Utah 56 to 44 at the half.
In Game 3, Leonard had 34 points while George added 31. On Monday, Leonard and George became the fifth duo since the 1976-77 merger with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games.
“They just were at a different level,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led the Jazz with 37 points, five assists and five rebounds. “And we couldn’t buy a bucket.”
Mitchell added, “We have to be the aggressors. They’ve come out and hit first both times at home.”
Leonard’s thunderous dunk wasn’t just felt by the Jazz in Staples Center. It reverberated across the country, as Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid reacted in real time as he was doing his postgame news conference Monday night. Embiid was watching a monitor and was impressed by Leonard’s dunk that went viral online as well.
“I don’t get to see the reaction of what’s on the web or social media,” said Leonard, who famously doesn’t do much on social media. “[Ivica Zubac] showed me a clip of Embiid talking.”
The dunk wasn’t the only highlight Leonard provided before leaving the game. He also had an emphatic block in the third quarter to help keep the Clippers from getting lackadaisical with their big lead.
“You see him being more aggressive and you know what time it is,” George said of Leonard. “It’s written all over him in terms of it’s go time. It’s playoff basketball and you know, it’s winning time. So you see it all around him, his approach, his body language, everything gets to be great and so he’s leading the way.”
Leonard looked as explosive as he has all season until appearing to tweak his knee in the fourth. Leonard stayed in the game, drawing another foul five seconds later, but missed two free throws. He would make two foul shots before coming out of the game for good with 4:35 left and the Clippers up 107-91.
Although wasn’t examined on the bench, Leonard spoke with a trainer. The Clippers kept their star out even when Utah closed the deficit to 112-102 with 2:10 remaining.
The Clippers are now two wins away from their first-ever Western Conference finals appearance. But the two-time Finals MVP isn’t thinking about that right now.
“I don’t care about the Western Conference finals,” Leonard said. “We’re trying to win the championship. Obviously that’s the next step, but I’m not even looking at that.”
NBA playoffs 2021 – LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard rocked the Utah Jazz with a nasty dunk
With the LA Clippers trying to hit their stride in their second-round NBA playoff series with the Utah Jazz, Kawhi Leonard appeared to be at the height of his powers with a monstrous dunk late in the first half.
LA entered Monday night’s Game 4 at the Staples Center hoping to pull even with the Jazz and got off to a strong start, as the Clippers built their lead as high as 29.
— NBA (@NBA) June 15, 2021
With fans at the Staples Center still limited, the most noteworthy reaction may have been on the faces of the stunned Jazz players. But the reverberations certainly were felt far and wide.
Donovan Mitchell’s face 😯
— ESPN (@espn) June 15, 2021
Jazz players’ reaction to Kawhi’s dunk on Favors 😯
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 15, 2021
“Oh my God.”
Joel Embiid’s reaction to Kawhi’s dunk pic.twitter.com/dDBCDKF3Er
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 15, 2021
Kawhi ain’t just dunk him like that 😳
— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) June 15, 2021
Kawhi Leonard once again ‘leading the way’ for LA Clippers, who even series with Utah Jazz at 2-2
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