Kawhi Leonard delivers in clutch as LA Clippers force Game 7 against Dallas Mavericks

Kawhi Leonard handled Friday night time like a Game 7 and it turned clear that he needed to guard Luka Doncic all the best way to his playoff profession excessive of 45 factors.

With the season and title hope of the LA Clippers at stake, Leonard put in arguably his finest total clipper efficiency to assist LA beat the Dallas Mavericks 104-97 for his or her third straight win on the American Airlines Center in recreation 6 earlier than one Year hit introduced quantity of 18,234.

“It’s simply the mentality,” mentioned Leonard. “Definitely, you do not need to go dwelling.”

Excluding final season’s bubble video games, this marked the primary time in NBA playoff historical past that the Road crew had received the primary six video games in a sequence, in response to ESPN Stats & Information.

In one in every of his finest playoff performances, Leonard made 18 of 25 photographs and scored 12 of his 45 factors in the fourth quarter. He scored eight factors in a row in simply over a minute late in the sport to force recreation 7.

“I imply, he destroyed us,” mentioned Doncic. “So it’s. He had a rattling good recreation. And that is what he does.”

With the elimination, the Clippers felt the pressures of their season at stake and the chance to expertise a second disappointing postseason in a row. But not like final 12 months after they embarrassingly forfeited a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the second spherical, the Clippers performed with the sort of urgency and combat they wanted to get their second recreation in a row force.

“For us it was Game 7 earlier than Game 7,” mentioned Paul George, who scored 20 factors, bought 13 rebounds and had six assists.

Leonard set the tone for the opening tip. Clippers coach Ty Lue mentioned they talked about placing Leonard on Doncic and that his star striker needed the massive job. Doncic, who got here into the sport averaging 35 factors in the sequence, completed the sport on 29 factors, 11 assists and eight rebounds, however he shot simply 11 out of 24 and a pair of out of 9 behind the arch when the Clippers held him out of instances the display screen and the defenders have been extra involved about themselves than switching.

Leonard held up all the Mavericks he was defending to a complete of 11 factors and 4-for-13 shoot-outs. Doncic solely shot 2 for six when he was guarded by Leonard, in response to information from ESPN Stats & Information.

“He went out of his technique to give up and made it onerous on the opposite finish,” mentioned George. “You’ve seen the most effective, if not one of the best, two-way gamers at his finest.”

Dallas led 82-79 by 9:06 minutes, however Leonard turned it round. When the Clippers held onto a two-point lead, Leonard drilled a 21-foot chin-up jumper. After grabbing a rebound, Leonard buried a 27-foot step-back 3-pointer. And then he completed a private 8-2 run with one other step-back Three to offer the Clippers a 98-90 lead with 1:41 the rest.

Leonard made all 5 of his photographs in the fourth quarter and is the primary participant to go 5v5 or higher in the ultimate quarter than he was about to be eradicated since Leonard’s former teammate Tim Duncan did so against the Mavericks in 2009.

“The indisputable fact that he had the power to aggressively get these photographs on monitor, most of which have been very tough, might be seen,” mentioned Dallas supervisor Rick Carlisle.

Carlisle added, “We did all the pieces in this sequence and we have to end the kitchen sink in Game 7.”

This was the sort of feat the Clippers envisioned after they signed Leonard, a two-time Finals MVP and elite double-back, and traded for George in the summer season of 2019 to land Leonard.

But the work just isn’t achieved. Leonard and the Clippers have much more to do in one other pressured Game 7. This time round, the Clippers hope to erase haunted recollections from final 12 months.

“I simply had one thing that I used to be younger, all the time needed to win the sport, to attempt to get my manner on the bottom,” mentioned Leonard of his mentality getting into that recreation from earlier playoff expertise. “And my teammates had the identical mentality.

“So that is what I attempted [instill] with them now to verify we maintain preventing, not giving up and by no means realizing what would possibly occur. Just have religion after which play onerous, have enjoyable. That’s all you are able to do. “

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