By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

6/2/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks Round 1, Game 5

As this series played out, neither team has been able to defend their home court. Behind the stellar play of Luka Doncic, the Mavericks won games one and two at Staples Center. In danger of going down 0-3, the Clippers were able to dig deep and pull out two wins at American Airlines Arena, which would set up a pivotal game 5 match-up at the Staple Center in Los Angeles.

Though the Clippers would have multiple players score in double figures, Maverick’s star Luka Doncic would come up two rebounds shy of his second triple-double of the series and his second game scoring 40 plus points, as he scored 42 points and handing out 14 assists, carrying the Mavericks to their third win of the series. After losing game 5 on their home court, the Clippers would have to travel to Dallas in danger of their season coming to an end, to the team whom they sent fishing last season.

6/4/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks Round 1, Game 6

With their season hanging in the balance Reggie Jackson decided it was his turn to lead the charge for the Clippers, has opened up the game with 14 points in the first quarter while pulling down 4 rebounds. His game-high 14 points were the most points he’s ever scored in a single quarter of a postseason game. With Kawhi and Paul George off to slow starts, they would need this kickstart from Reggie.

Kawhi Leonard would return to this series playoffs form by scoring 13 points in that second quarter to give him a game-high 16 points at the half. Luka, and the Mavericks, would fall too far behind as he recorded 15 points in the half with an additional 4 assists to keep his team in striking distance. Though the Mavericks only scored 17 points in the quarter, their shooting of 7-7 from the free-throw aided them by only being down by 3 at the half.

In this subsequent 3rd quarter, Kawhi would lead all scorers by scoring 17 points giving him a game-high 33 points by the end of the quarter. Though the Mavericks would get an unexpected 12 points from Boban Marjanovic along with 11 points

and 7 rebounds from Dorian Finney-Smith through three quarters to keep this game close.

The Clippers’ ultra-efficient, Kawhi Leonard would go on to tie a postseason career-high with 45 points in Game 6. He also became just the sixth player in the Shot Clock Era, and the first since LeBron James (6/7/12 at Boston), to score at least 45 points while shooting at least 72% from the field in a postseason game.

Kawhi Leonard joins Bob McAdoo as the only players in franchise history to have multiple 40+ point games in the postseason, additionally, he and Bob McAdoo (4/18/75) are the only players in franchise history to score at least 45 points in a postseason game. His hot streak makes him the sole player in NBA postseason history to have four games in a single series of at least 29 points while shooting at least 66% from the field.

Though the Mavericks would finish the game with four players than scored in double figures in this pivotal game. The Clippers trio of Reggie Jackson, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard would lead the Clippers to their Game 6 win and tie this series up at 3 games apiece.

During his Post Game media available session, Ty Lue would say about the team’s performance, “You know, great players perform in big moments, and he was huge, man, you know, taking the challenge, guarding Luka the whole game. I thought our coverages were great. We kept Kawhi — throughout this game. We mix it up with some switches, some shows, some blitz. Played 42 minutes and guard their best player, he was a hell of a player for the whole game. That just shows you Kawhi, who he is. PG was great, 13 rebounds, played the last 36 minutes of the game. I thought Zu came in and gave us great minutes. Reggie Jackson was great. You know, especially in that first quarter, give our offense some scoring in the first quarter. Marcus, only shot 1-for-10 but defensively he was great, wrestling with Boban, blitzing on the pick-and-rolls, which caused Luka to turn the ball over a little bit. It was a total team win but Kawhi and PG really good a great job of carrying us.”

Kawhi Leonard would share his thoughts on what Game 7 might look and feel like, and he said with his matter of fact, monotone style, “Just a basketball game. If we don’t want to go home, pay attention to details. You know, have faith. Shoot the ball like you’re going to make it, with confidence. And if you do that, you can live with the results. Just want to make sure we don’t have mistakes or people being indecisive. Just go out there and leave it all on the floor.”

6/6/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks Round 1, Game 7

To move on to the next round the Clippers would need to become the fifth team in NBA history to lose the first two games at home and come back to win a postseason series. Oddly enough, they would also have to become the first team to win a game on their home court in this first-round series.

Before their Game 7 match-up, Mavericks HC Rick Carlisle was asked about what he could draw from his previous early afternoon game experiences, and here was his response, “Its Game 7. We don’t give a sh*t what time it is. We’re excited to play and looking forward to it. It’s a one-game situation.”

I was able to ask Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue before Game 7 about how they can duplicate their shutdown play from the previous game and he responded by telling me, “I think having Kawhi on Luka as the primary ball-handler, I think was great for us, and I think when it came to the pick-and-rolls with their 5s, I think blitzing that to get the ball out of Luka’s hands was good for us. We’ve got to do a little bit of the same stuff tonight and we’ve just gotta be ready to make adjustments when we need to. As I said, I loved our mindset going into that game, and our defense is what kept us in the game because we were able to make some shots in that fourth quarter.”

After the Clippers take an 11 to 9 lead, Marcus Morris Sr. picks up his second personal foul and Ty Lue quickly brings Terence Mann off the bench. Mann’s energy and versatility have been invaluable to them all season long! At the first under 8:00 TV timeout, the Clippers hold onto an early 16 to 13 lead.

Shortly after that, Tim Hardaway came up gimpy and had to leave the floor after an apparent foot injury. Though he would return before the half was out, he wasn’t as effective as he has been in previous games of the series. However, Luka Doncic was up to his same ole tricks; crossing cats over and hitting his patented step-back jumper… and shooting 6-8 from the field, 3-4 from deep for a game-high 19 points with 2 rebounds and 3 assists in only the first quarter.

The combination of Kawhi, Paul George, and Terence Mann scored 39 points to give the Clippers a 70-62 lead at the half. Luka, on the other hand, had a game-

high 29 points and 7 assists at the break to keep the Mavericks in striking distance. If you didn’t know about Luka Doncic before this series you have been put on notice for the future.

To open the third quarter, the Mavericks went on an 8-2 run to open the 3rd quarter before Ty Lue calls timeout to slow down their run. As the Mavericks have scored 2 three-pointers on just as many assists. The Clippers would then go on a 24 to 4 run in the third to take control of this game.

Clippers Head Coach was asked about his talk with the guys in his post-game media availability and this is what he told us, “Just got to take advantage of this opportunity. You know, I said, come out and take advantage — we can’t turn the basketball over and we have to get back in transition but keep attacking. Don’t get enticed by taking the three-point shots because they are in the zone. We have to get back to attacking the rim and attacking the paint, and — open threes that are open. Just a little lull coming out at the start of the third quarter, but as I said, we got back on track and we called a time-out and kept attacking and get to go where we wanted to get to offensively.”

After each team shows their exhaustion by missing shot after shot in the 4th quarter… Marcus Morris Sr. hits the last of his record-tying 7 three-point shots in front of the Mavericks bench. That shot essentially clinched the game with 1:16 remaining giving the Clippers a 120-107 lead late in the quarter!

Luka becomes the 3rd player in league playoffs history to put up 44 points 7 rebounds and 14 assists. Not to be outdone, Kawhi averaged 30 points 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists on 61% from the field for the series. Paul George showed his consistency by scoring at least 20 points in seven straight postseason games, which is the longest such streak of his career.

When asked about that consistency and he attributed their win postgame Paul George responded humbly by stating, “I think contributed to I think our pace. I think we played faster. You know, that was the key, just our pace, moving the ball. We got guys great shots, great looks. You know, they got the big fellas out there. We’ve got to force them to try to contain the ball instead of just sitting in the paint clogging it up, and so I thought our pace was everything. We played faster. And you know, we forced rotations; we won it, and you know, we got the ball to the guys that had the hot hands.”

I also asked Paul to share his thoughts on what Terance Mann brought to the court for them and he shared this with me, “T-Mann has been great all year. He’s been bringing the energy all year. You know, young guy stepping up, playing huge for us. Again, he’s just another guy you can plug in there and play multiple positions for us. He’s just playing with a lot of confidence. His ceiling is off the charts. The kid can do just about everything on the floor, and so it’s a luxury to have, especially when there’s — there are just no liabilities when he’s on the floor. He can guard, he can ready, he shoots the three, he finishes with — amongst the trees. He can do so much, and so he helps us big-time when he’s on the floor”

The Clippers got the game they needed from their shooters as they hit 20 threes today, which is the most in a Game 7 in NBA history. Kawhi Leonard also becomes just the fourth player in NBA postseason history to have at least 200 total points while shooting at least 60% from the field in a single series. The last player to do so was Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 NBA Finals.

Additionally, Kawhi Leonard is the second player and first since Kobe Bryant (2002) with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and zero turnovers in a Game 7, since this was tracked back in 1983. Leonard also tied his postseason career-high with nine assists today.

This is the fifth time in franchise history that the Clippers have had at least 30 assists in a postseason game. The Clippers have made 20 three-pointers today, this was only the second time in franchise history that the team has made at least 20 threes in a postseason game. Marcus Morris Sr. led the team and become the second player in franchise history to make at least seven threes in a postseason game.

Once again, this team showed the poise of their Head Coach Ty Lue, his confidence never wavered when they were down 0-2… even after they went down 30-11, he appeared to remain calm and his team responded in kind. Facing elimination, they were able to make the correct adjustments and trust each other to pull out that win and the series win. Though they didn’t start the playoffs off great, in the words of Kawhi Leonard, “we showed character, we showed poise when we went down 2-0 going on the road” in this series and they should be better for it moving forward!

With this series win, they will move onto play the Western Conference #1 seed in the Utah Jazz. The way they won their Round 1 series should give them some confidence to play with the Jazz and rebound once they face the adversity, they are sure to face in any of the three playoff rounds they’d have to get through to win an NBA Championship. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport to let me know what you think of this team and their ability to bring home their first NBA title. Also, forward any suggestions on what additional topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com.

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