The LA Clippers begin their title pursuit with a first-round matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.
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- Game 1 - Monday, August 17 @ 9:00 p.m.
- Game 2 - Wednesday, August 19 @ @ 9:00 p.m.
- Game 3 - Friday, August 21 @ @ 9:00 p.m.
- Game 4 - Sunday, August 23 @ @ 3:30 p.m.
- Game 5 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 6 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 7 (if necessary) - TBD
Result: Clippers won 3-0
Best game: Jan. 21, 2020 - Clippers 110, Mavericks 107
Best performance: Kawhi Leonard (Jan. 21, 2020) - 36 points (12-29 FG, 1-9 3PT, 11-12 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 assists
The regular season series was a clean sweep for the Clippers.
The Clippers dominated the first matchup, with Leonard and Paul George proving to be too much for the Mavericks to handle. The duo combined for 54 points while Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis struggled, leading to a 114-99 victory for the Clippers.
🙌 Kawhi Leonard (28 PTS) and @Yg_Trece (26 PTS) combine for 54 PTS as the @LAClippers move to 13-5! #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/8uloBSl2OV- NBA (@NBA) November 27, 2019
The Clippers were without George in the second meeting, and the Mavericks were able to make things interesting.
Down double digits at halftime, Luka Doncic sparked a second-half comeback with 24 points, five assists and three rebounds in the final two quarters alone. The game came down to the wire, with Tim Hardaway Jr. missing the game-tying 3-point with 16.0 seconds remaining in regulation.
Leonard was the star of the show for the Clippers, finishing with 36 points and 11 rebounds. It marked his sixth straight 30-point game, which tied a career-high at the time.
📊 36 PTS / 11 REB / 3 STL / 2 BLK@kawhileonard ties a career-high with six straight games of 30 points or more. pic.twitter.com/MaDLZCWcp4- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 22, 2020
The last time the Clippers and Mavericks faced each other was in the bubble.
Leonard (29 points) and George (24 points) once again led the way, but the Clippers received a big boost from Ivica Zubac. The big man recorded a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double and shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the field, making for a record-setting performance.
A night for the record books. pic.twitter.com/RsiQzkVPiW- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) August 7, 2020
In three games, Leonard averaged 31.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 45.2 percent shooting from the field against the Mavericks in the regular season. Doncic averaged 29.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists but shot only 42.6 percent from the field.
Key Storyline: What does Luka Doncic have in store in his first postseason?
What a season it's been for Doncic.
Doncic isn't a finalist for MVP, but he proved to be a legitimate MVP candidate in only his second season in leading the Mavericks to the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. His averages of 29.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game? Only two players have ever posted them before: Russell Westbrook when he won MVP in 2016-17 and Oscar Robertson, who did it three times in the early 1960s.
While he's only 21, Doncic seems to do something historic every time he takes the court. He's leading the league with 17 triple-doubles this season and isn't far removed from becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a 30-20-10 game.
Luka went off for a triple-double to beat the Kings 😱- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 4, 2020
Doncic is the youngest player in NBA history to have a 30 PTS, 20 REB, 10 AST game. pic.twitter.com/kRrkcKC2Mg
Now we get to see what Doncic is capable of in the playoffs.
Doncic will have his hands full against a Clippers team that has two of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Leonard and George, plus Patrick Beverley, who is one of the peskiest defenders at the point guard position. Doncic was still able to put up big numbers against the Clippers in the regular season, but the three of them helped LA make life difficult for him, holding him to 42.6 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range.
While the Mavericks aren't a one-man team - Porzingis is back to looking like the All-Star he was in New York - it all begins with Doncic. (He's creating 52.2 points per game with his scoring and assists this season, making him responsible for close to half of the Mavericks' scoring). When he's at his best, Dallas has proven it can beat anyone.
Three Players to Watch
Like Doncic, this will be Porzingis' playoff debut.
There isn't quite as much pressure on Porzingis as there is on Doncic, but the Mavericks will need him to play well to have any chance against the Clippers.
A good sign for the Mavericks: Porzingis has been one of the breakout stars of the bubble. He's scored 30 or more points in three of Dallas' games, including a 36-point showing against the Portland Trail Blazers in which he went 7-for-9 from 3-point range.
KP!!!!!!! 🦄🦄 pic.twitter.com/f0rbMj9o5R- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 12, 2020
The Mavericks can only hope there's more of that to come.
We all saw what Leonard did in the playoffs last season, leading the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history.
Is this the start of another historic run?
While he isn't a finalist for MVP either, Leonard was fantastic in the regular season, averaging career highs of 27.1 points and 4.9 assists to go along with 7.1 rebounds per game. The Mavericks didn't have much of an answer for him in their head-to-head matchups, with Dorian Finney-Smith drawing the tough task of trying to slow him down.
Should Leonard lead the Clippers to a championship and win Finals MVP this season, he'll become the first player in NBA history to win the award on three teams. He'll have to get through four different teams to get there, starting with the Mavericks.
Hopefully the reasons why are clear. There simply aren't many more players who are more exciting to watch in the league right now. Fingers crossed we get more between the legs assists.
Honourable mention: Paul George. The Clippers will need him to be the Robin to Leonard's Batman to win it all this season. This just might not be the series they need him to be at his very best to advance.
Picks and Predictions
Scott Rafferty: Clippers in six
Gilbert McGregor: Clippers in six
Carlan Gay: Clippers in five
Alex Novick: Clippers in seven
Benyam Kidane: Clippers in six
Yash Matange: Clippers in five
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