Clippers force Game 7 as Kawhi Leonard destroys Mavericks

The clock was ticking as the Los Angeles Clippers neared either elimination or survival. However, Kawhi Leonard stood quietly holding the ball and ultimately dictating the Clippers’ fate.

Leonard seemed pleased not only with the pressure of having the ball in his hands, but also with whoever was defending it. Leonard wanted to take on Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. After receiving his request, Leonard jab-stepped and then drilled a step-back 3 pointer over an unbalanced Doncic.

The piece captured how Leonard led the Clippers to a 104-97 Game 6 victory over the Mavericks on Friday to tie the first round series 3: 3 and to force a crucial game 7 at the Staples Center on Sunday. Leonard continued his playoff career with 45 points, while he shot 18 out of 25 out of the field and 5 out of 9 out of the 3-point range. And Leonard’s 27 feet above Doncic turned out to be the dagger shot that gave the Clippers a 95-88 cushion with 2:20 left.

“He destroyed us. He had a great game,” said Doncic. “That’s what he does.”

However, that’s not all Leonard does. Doncic would know.

Leonard became the sixth player in NBA history during the shot clock era to score 45 or more points in a playoff game at 72% shooting. He did this while guarding mostly Doncic, whose 29 points required a lot of effort out of the field (11-out of-24) and in depth (2-out of-9).

“You’ve seen one of the best, if not the best, two-way players at his best,” said Clippers forward Paul George. “It was fun to watch.”

It was safe.

Leonard scored 42 of the Clippers’ last 68 points. During this distance Leonard shot efficiently out of the field (17-out of-22), out of depth (5-out-of-8) and from the free-throw line (3-out of-3). Meanwhile, Doncic’s efficiency wavered. After scoring eleven points on 4-of-8 in the first quarter, Doncic became less effective in the second (four points on 1-out-of-3) and third (two points on 1-out-of-5). Doncic bounced back in the fourth quarter (12 points on 5-of-8) but Leonard made up for that with 12 of his own while making all five attempts.

THE CENTRAL THESES:How the Clippers forced Game 7 against the Mavericks

OUTSIDE IN PORTLAND:Blazers split from Stotts a day after the playoff knockout

“Great players do great things,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. “He took up the challenge of guarding Luka the whole game and I loved the coverage. It shows you who Kawhi Leonard is.”

It also shows you who Leonard is when he refused to brag about his own game.

“Luka still played a pretty good game,” said Leonard. “He’s a very dominant player and he’s very skilled. He plays at his own pace. All I can do is stay in front of him as much as possible, take his punches and try not to hit him off the line bring. “

Leonard fulfilled this job description well. According to tracking data from NBA.com, Leonard Doncic has 22 points at 9-out-of-24 out of the field (37.5%) and 4-out-of-13 out of 3-point (30.8%) in the field Series held.

However, Lue refused to allocate too much to Leonard for Doncic in previous games in order to withstand fouls and reduce his workload so it would not affect his score. But since the constant catching of the Clippers had mixed results, Lue said Leonard asked to defend the Mavs star in Game 6.

“I want to attack everyone on the ground, no matter who is in front of me,” said Leonard. “Whoever the matchup is. I can’t be indecisive out there. If I feel like I have a corner and they give me something, I’ll attack it.”

How things changed so dramatically for Leonard between Games 5 and 6.

Feeling healthier from neck and shoulder injuries, Doncic had 42 points in Game 5 when he shot 17 of 37 out of the field and 6 of 12 from 3-point distance. Meanwhile, Leonard only had 20 points shooting 7-out-19 out of the field and 1-out-7 out of depth. He also shot a potential game-binding 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to go.

That didn’t upset Leonard. Also, Leonard’s 14-point 6-of-22 shoot-out in last year’s postseason elimination from Clippers’ Game 7 against Denver after holding a 3-1 lead in the series. After all, he has already won two NBA championships. He also scored 45 points in Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia. He’s got used to high stakes moments.

“You definitely don’t want to go home. That was something I had – I always wanted to win the game and I tried to get my way on the ground,” said Leonard. “My teammates had the same mentality. I try to teach them that to make sure we keep fighting and don’t give up. You never know what can happen. Just have faith and go out and have fun.”

When the Clippers struggled to stop the Mavericks’ long runs with periodic shooting slumps and sloppy play, Lue observed Leonard often calming his teammates on the court and in the huddles. George, Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo followed suit.

During Leonard’s scoring breakout, George told him, “Together we’re going to give you something; just keep going.” George eventually ended up with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson added 25 points. But most of the action revolved around Leonard, who was enjoying dagger shot on Doncic after spending a long night preventing him from doing the same.

“To trust my team-mates and to trust myself,” said Leonard. “Over the course of the game, I got in a few places and shot a couple of shots. My teammates found me. I just tried to go with the rhythm and stay with my rhythm and my mindset. I didn’t want to go home.” . I kept that momentum and faith all night long. “

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for The various subscription offers from USA TODAY.

Jack

Read Previous

What to Know About the 153rd Belmont Stakes

Read Next

More workers negotiate a return to the office — but working from home is a privilege open to precious few Americans

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *