Kawhi Leonard, Clippers can even series with Mavericks

NBA Basketball

The Los Angeles Clippers have officially picked themselves up off the mat in their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks.

Some might say they’ve even taken a mental edge in the best-of-seven series, but don’t try convincing Clippers forward Paul George of that heading into Game 4 on Sunday night in Dallas.

“We’re down 2-1. We haven’t shown anything,” George said. “We’re not the favorites. We’re not the defending champs. We haven’t shown anything.”

The fourth-seeded Clippers lost the first two games in Los Angeles earlier this week. Based on past NBA results, falling behind 0-2 in the series gave them a 6.3 percent chance of bouncing back to advance.

Those odds became even longer when they fell behind by 19 points in the first quarter of Game 3 in Dallas on Friday night, but the Clippers leaned on their stars on offense and clamped down on defense, allowing them to pull off a 118-108 victory.

“We finally have figured out how we want to attack offensively,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We understand what we need to do defensively and how to limit our mistakes.”

The Clippers haven’t found a way to slow Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who’s averaging 38 points in the series after scoring 44 in Game 3 on 15 for 28 from the field, including 7 for 13 from 3-point range.

But they did find a way to get 7-foot-3 center Kristaps Porzingis off his game on Friday night.

Porzingis, who averaged 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds during the regular season, was held to nine points on 3-for-10 shooting and three rebounds.

“I definitely can do a better job of sealing the guards when I have a guard on me. Also, I have to score on those post-ups that I have. I had great looks and I just missed shots,” Porzingis said. “Just frustrated a little bit with the shots not going in, but then again, I can’t let that affect the rest of my game.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was more critical of the defense. Dallas allowed three open 3-point looks for Marcus Morris Sr. from the same spot on the baseline in the fourth quarter and he made them all, taking the air out of the building with each swish.

“Our offensive movement wasn’t very good, but the bigger problem was the defense,” Carlisle said. “Let’s be clear: We’re not going to make this about missed shots or opportunities to post up (Porzingis) or anybody else. We’ve got to defend better.”

The Clippers have been getting what they need from their 1-2 star combo of Kawhi Leonard and George.

Leonard is averaging 34.3 points and eight rebounds in the series while shooting 60 percent from the floor and 44.4 from 3-point range.

George is at 26.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 53.4 from the field. His 3-point shooting is down to 23.8 percent after hitting on 41.1 percent during the regular season.

The Clippers are most pleased with how they held the Mavericks to 44.2 percent from the field in Game 3 after they shot 50 percent in Game 1 and 58.5 in Game 2.

“This is the team that we are and the team we’ve been and the team we need to be, a team that’s going to play defense and play hard,” George said. “Offensively, we have enough offensive weapons to get tough baskets and create easy opportunities as well. But defensively, it’s just where we’ve got to be great.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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