DALLAS (AP) Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, Paul George added 29 and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Luka Doncic‘s home playoff debut, beating the Dallas Mavericks 118-108 on Friday night to get back in the first-round playoff series.
The Clippers bounced back from two losses at home by withstanding a huge early surge by the Mavericks in front of their biggest – and loudest – crowd by far this season. Dallas takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Sunday night.
Doncic fed the frenzy of 17,705 fans, more than three times the size of any crowd in a season that started with an empty arena, by making his first four shots, three of them 3-pointers, on his way to a playoff career-high 44 points as Dallas took a 30-11 lead.
LA’s 14-0 run erased most of the deficit before the end of the first quarter, and George gave the Clippers their first lead on a 3-pointer in the second quarter.
The Clippers ended a five-game postseason losing streak going back to last year’s Florida playoff bubble, when LA beat Dallas in six games in the first round before blowing a 3-1 lead in the second round against Denver.
Leonard made his first eight shots – three of them on the 14-0 run that quieted the crowd – and George scored 22 points before halftime on 10-of-13 shooting.
Marcus Morris hit three corner 3s in front of the Dallas bench in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers stay comfortably in front.
Morris turned to talk to the Dallas players a little more with each make, finally getting a technical on the third one after giving LA a 112-110 lead with less than four minutes remaining. He fouled out moments later but had already done his damage with nine of his 15 points in the fourth.
That wasn’t the only chippy moment.
Doncic and Patrick Beverley got double technicals after a brief skirmish in the first half, and Dallas center Willie Cauley-Stein was called for a flagrant foul and a technical in separate run-ins with Terance Mann.
The first home playoff game for the Mavericks in five years was also the first at American Airlines Center for everyone on their roster except Dwight Powell, who played just three minutes late. The nerves might have shown.
While Doncic already had his third 30-point game of the series before the fourth quarter, the supporting cast wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in LA.
Kristaps Porzingis scored six points in the first five minutes but just three the rest of the way. He and Dorian Finney-Smith were 3 of 10 from the field, and Tim Hardaway Jr. was 4 of 14 and scored 12 points after averaging 25 in the first two games.
Clippers: F Serge Ibaka didn’t play because of a back injury that sidelined him for 30 consecutive regular-season games before he played the final two. Ibaka played the first two games of the series but was limited to six minutes in Game 2. … Reggie Jackson was the other LA player in double figures with 16.
Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki attended again after showing up for Game 2 in Los Angeles. He and J.J. Barea, another member of the 2011 championship team, got huge ovations when shown on the video board. … The Mavericks held a COVID-19 vaccination drive outside the arena until about halftime and plan to do the same for Game 4. … Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson scored 14 points apiece. … Doncic had nine rebounds and nine assists.
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