Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic duel as LA Clippers take Game 7 over Dallas Mavericks

In a historic series where the road team had taken each of the first six games for the first time ever, the LA Clippers prevailed over the Dallas Mavericks to take the win-or-go-home Game 7.

Luka Doncic was unbelievable in trying to keep his team's season alive, going off for 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds. Despite the monster performance, there wasn't enough help around the young star to overcome three different Clippers with 20-plus points in Kawhi Leonard (28), Marcus Morris (23) and Paul George (22).

The Clippers will advance to the Western Conference Semifinals, where the top-seeded Utah Jazz await them.

For more on this hard-fought Game 7, we have you covered with some thoughts below.

1. Kawhi Leonard steps up

The last time Leonard played in a Game 7 (the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals in a loss to the Denver Nuggets) he had a forgettable outing, tallying just 14 points.

The star forward nearly matched that scoring total in the first quarter of this Game 7, going for 13 points.

He was dominant the entire game, commanding the pace and picking his spots as he so often does. It may not hold a candle to his epic 45-point performance in Game 6, but Leonard was equally as surgical in this one.

He only missed five shots in the entire game. Scoring 28 points on an efficient 10-for-15 shooting from the field, 1-for-3 from 3 and 7-for-7 from the free throw line, Leonard was dialed in, particularly from midrange.

Leonard would finish with a near-triple-double of 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, while also coming up with four steals and a block to represent his efforts on the defensive end.

The superstar forward is playing some of his best basketball of the season as the Clippers advance to the second round.

2. Luka Doncic needed one quarter to make history

Doncic appears to make history every time he steps on the floor in the postseason. This time, it was getting out to a roaring start with 19 points while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter to place himself in a category of his own.

According to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, Doncic is the first player in the last 25 years to score 19 points in the first quarter of a Game 7. The previous record was only 14 points.

3. And he doesn't cool off

Doncic was special in this one, not shying away from the moment in the first Game 7 of his career.

His 19 points in the first quarter set the tone for what would be a monster night from the 22-year-old phenom, tallying 29 points and seven assists by the halftime break. That scoring total set an NBA record for the most first-half points by any player in NBA history in a Game 7.

He then only needed four minutes in the second half to rack up three more assists, giving him a 30-point double-double with eight minutes still remaining in the third frame.

Doncic showcased exactly why he is believed to be a future MVP and arguably the brightest young star in the NBA today, coming up with a remarkable 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in a must-win game to try and keep his team's season alive.

46 points marked a playoff career high. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to average over 35 points per game for a series, per ESPN Stats and Info.

It was a performance that will not soon be forgotten.

4. Distributor Paul George

George didn't have his best shooting night, but he found another way to make an impact in helping the Clippers pull off the Game 7 victory.

Dishing out a team-high 10 assists, the All-Star forward became the lead floor general for LA, getting his teammates - and particularly Leonard - involved.

He still finished with 22 points despite going 5-for-15 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3-point range, but he did put pressure on Dallas' defence, getting to the free throw line often where he went a perfect 10-for-10.

5. Tim Hardaway Jr. goes cold

Hardaway had been the Mavericks' second-best player the entire series, averaging 18.0 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc through the first six games. He had scored 20-plus points in four of those contests, giving the Clippers' defence another threat to worry about and take some attention away from Doncic.

After landing awkwardly on a 3-point attempt in the first quarter, Hardaway went to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury. He would return to action after that, but the sharpshooter was anything but the remainder of the way.

Hardaway finished with just 11 points while shooting 5-for-14 from the field and an ugly 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, failing to give the Mavericks the boost they needed to advance in the playoffs.

6. Dorian Finney-Smith's emergence

The leap we saw from Finney-Smith in this series was impressive.

The versatile forward was stellar for the Mavericks, acting as the primary defender on Leonard on that end of the floor while knocking down timely 3s on offence.

He continued that trend in Game 7, doing all he could to make life difficult for Leonard on top of going for a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Shooting 4-for-7 from 3, he added to a sharp total of 16-for-37 for the series, a clip good for 43.2 percent.

Going undrafted in 2016, the Mavericks have clearly found a diamond in the rough in the Florida product.

7. Terance Mann and Luke Kennard play X-factor

Mann went from playing 14 seconds in Game 1 to becoming a huge X-factor in Game 7 to help the Clippers advance.

The former second-round pick brought the energy off the bench in the first half, going for 13 points, three rebounds and one assist while shooting an efficient 5-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range to give his team a spark.

Kennard - who signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Clippers this past offseason - had only appeared in two of the first six games of this series, receiving four DNP-Coach's Decision. The offensive-minded guard made the most of an uptick in minutes, providing 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field with three 3-pointers to make his impact felt.

These two players led the way for LA's second unit that outscored Dallas' bench 27-6, making a difference in a must-win game.

8. What's next?

The Clippers advance to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they will take on the Utah Jazz. Game 1 is set for Tuesday, June 8 (ET.)

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