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Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after dunking against Clippers center Ivica Zubac on May 25, 2021 in Los Angeles.
Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reacts after dunking against Clippers center Ivica Zubac in the first quarter Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

It was just two dribbles with Paul George’s right hand: the first going to his right, then immediately pulling it back left.

But they happened so quickly, and the change of direction was so unexpected for Kristaps Porzingis, that Dallas’ 7-foot-3 center lost his footing and tipped over onto his backside, helpless as the Clippers forward took one long stride past him Tuesday for a second-quarter, volume-raising basket at Staples Center.

Only minutes later, it was Kawhi Leonard’s turn. With Porzingis the only Mavericks defender between him and the rim, the Clippers’ other All-Star forward pulled a spin move that left him wide open for a layup as Porzingis looked the other direction.

Take a time machine back two years to the moment the Clippers acquired the star duo, and this was the kind of performance the franchise would have dreamed of. Leonard scored 30 points before halftime Tuesday night in Game 2 of this first-round playoff series, his most in any half of the postseason in his decorated career. George, determined to bounce back from his off night in Game 1, scored his team’s first three baskets and had 17 by halftime, to pull the Clippers out of a nine-point hole to trail by just two after two quarters.

Leonard finished with 41 points while George had 28. Reggie Jackson was the only other Clipper in double figures with 15 points.

Their performances were why everything else about Game 2, a slugfest between stars, was so concerning for the Clippers. They needed every single point from their stars just to stay within 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

But the Clippers’ rally late that pulled them within four points fell short, and a 127-121 loss Tuesday left them trailing the Mavericks 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 39 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Tim Hardaway Jr., who made a late three-pointer to help seal the victory, had 28 points while Porgingis contributed 20.

Game 3 is Friday night in Dallas.

Clippers-Mavericks first-round playoff schedule.Clippers-Mavericks first-round playoff schedule.

Clippers-Mavericks first-round playoff schedule. (Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.