DALLAS - The Los Angeles Clippers came out swinging and extended their season by tying up the series against the Mavericks in front of a sold-out crowd in Dallas in Game 6 on Friday night.
As the last Los Angeles NBA team standing, the Clippers had an incredible second half fueled by Kawhi Leonard's iconic 45-point performance.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Leonard is the first 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, as reported by Clippers beat writer, Tomer Azarly.
However, in order to make it to Round Two, the Clippers will have to do something they haven’t done in this season’s playoffs so far: win at home.
This is the only matchup that will go to seven games in the NBA’s first round of playoffs this season. The final game of the best-of-seven series is set for Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
Clippers head coach Ty Lue opted to play small against one of the tallest starting lineups in the NBA, pushing the Clippers to their limit on both sides of the floor. Luka Doncic (6’7"), Tim Hardaway Jr. (6’6"), Boban Marjanovic (7’4"), Dorian Finney-Smith (6’7") and Kristaps Porzingis (7’3") made for the Mavericks starting lineup, compared to the Clippers' starting lineup composed of Kawhi Leonard (6'7"), Paul George (6'8"), Reggie Jackson (6'3"), Marcus Morris (6'9") and Nicolas Batum (6'8").
Reggie Jackson was the first Clipper to get into double digits with 15 points in the first half as the Clippers got hot in the second quarter. Paul George made solid defensive plays and had 11 points in the first half. Kawhi Leonard scored 13 of the Clippers’ 22 points in the second quarter and Los Angeles managed to lead 48-45 at halftime.
Also in the first half, Ivic Zubac, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and Rajon Rondo went scoreless with limited time on the floor.
Overall, the Clippers bench was missing in action who gave little contribution offensively against Dallas' lethal shooters.
The Mavericks quickly took the lead in the third quarter as the Mavericks fed off the energy from the roaring crowd. The two teams were neck and neck in what was an intense third quarter. With 2.5 seconds left on the clock, George got a blocking foul, which sent Jalen Brunson to the floor who missed both of his free throws. The Mavericks then led 77-72.
Kennard finally got a bucket in the fourth quarter, which was the bench's first in the entire game.
Often a clutch 3-point shooter, Morris went often went cold from the 3-point line.
Jackson found himself in foul trouble late in the game. He got his fourth foul with 7:17 left on the clock with the Clippers down 84-85 and got his fifth foul with about four minutes left in the game. Lue challenged the call on the fifth foul but to no avail.
Despite having little to no help from the supporting cast and playing small, the Clippers came out victorious 104-97 in the must-win game.
To add to Leonard's 45 points, the game was also carried heavily by Jackson who had 25 points George who had 20.
Doncic ended the game with 29 points.
SERIES AT A GLANCE:
Game 6: 104 Clippers, 97 Mavericks. Final.
The Clippers have been able to turn the series around and avoid being swept after starting off 0-2 and having no solutions for Doncic. The team looks to avenge their unexpected early exit in the Western Conference semifinals against Denver last season.
The winner of the Clippers-Mavericks series will go on to play the Utah Jazz, the West’s number one seed, in the second round.
ACROSS THE NBA
All eyes will be on Milwaukee and Brooklyn as they battle it out in the second round. The two teams were expected to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but seeding prevented the matchup in the East's finale. While Milwaukee has been playing well and managed to sweep Miami in the first round, they are up against the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving.
It remains unclear when Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was on track to be this season’s MVP, will return. Embiid suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of the first round. However, even his absence, Philadelphia ended the Wizards’ season and won in Game 5 129-112. The 76ers are now up against rising star Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
The Phoenix Suns eliminated the defending champions LA Lakers on Thursday night. This marks the first time in LeBron James’ career where he was sent home in the first round. The energetic and mostly young squad will now take on the Denver Nuggets, who are led by this season’s top MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.