Luka Doncic was at it again.
The 23-year-old superstar did not shy away from the playoff stage, going for a triple-double of 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Dallas Mavericks past the LA Clippers to steal Game 1 on the road.
Despite a strong performance of 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals from Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers couldn't come up with enough stops down the stretch as the Mavericks went on a 13-3 run to close the game and come away with a win.
For more on this game, we have you covered with some takeaways below.
1. Luka's ready for the moment ... again
When the Mavericks faced off against the Clippers in the first round of last year's playoffs, it marked Doncic's first-ever NBA postseason appearance. In his debut, the then-21-year-old guard erupted for 42 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, bursting onto the scene to show he's not afraid of the moment.
This year's Game 1 got out to a similar start, going off for 21 points and six assists in the first half alone, knocking down a few of his patented step-back 3s from long range.
The halftime break couldn't cool off the phenom, who would finish with a triple-double of 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to go with five 3-pointers.
Luka (31 PTS, 11 AST, 10 REB) did it ALL in the Mavs' win 💪 pic.twitter.com/Z5U6pGYERe- NBA TV (@NBATV) May 22, 2021
It was Doncic's third-career playoff triple-double, ranking him second for the most all-time by a 23-year-old, trailing only the great Magic Johnson (13). The most interesting part about that? Doncic has only appeared in seven (!) career playoff games.
Yet another stellar performance from the young star to give his team a 1-0 series lead.
2. Another day at the office for Kawhi
You can never speed up Leonard. He's always going to play at his own pace and he's going to get to his spots and knock down shots. It's as simple as that.
Game 1 was a typical day at the office for Leonard, who went for 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Where Leonard was atypical - he shot 9-for-22 from the field, 1-for-6 from 3 and missed two free throws, going 7-for-9 from the line.
Leonard is usually much more efficient than that and he appeared to have run out of gas down the stretch, leaving a couple midrange shots - ones that he usually makes in his sleep - short.
Carrying that heavy of an offensive load while trying to slow down Doncic on the other end could take a toll on the 29-year-old All-Star.
3. Paul George overcomes slow start
George received criticism for his performance in last year's first-round series against the Mavericks and the first half of Game 1 was more of the same. Despite a strong and efficient shooting regular season, the seven-time All-Star was completely out of rhythm heading into the halftime break of this first playoff game, scoring just three points while shooting 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3-point land.
He would, however, snap out of it after the half.
George would heat up in the third and fourth quarter, tallying 16 second-half points while shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 2-for-5 from 3-point range. His efforts helped keep the Clippers alive when Leonard began to cool off, but it wasn't enough to take the team over the top for a victory.
George finished with 23 points, six boards and five assists, going 8-for-18 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3.
4. Porzingis' quiet night
One of the narratives of last year's playoff series between these two teams is how things could have been different if Kristaps Porzingis was available for every game played. He was ejected in Game 1, had a strong 23 points and seven rebounds in a Game 2 win, exploded for 34 points and 13 rebounds in a tough Game 3 loss, then missed the rest of the series after playing that Game 3 on a torn meniscus.
In this year's Game 1, Porzingis was far from the dominant player we saw last postseason.
He scored just 14 points while shooting an inefficient 4-for-13 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point range, and it wasn't just his offence that was subpar. The 7-foot-3 centre only corralled four rebounds in 36 minutes of action, leaving much to be desired from his performance.
The Mavericks would still come away with the win, but they'll need much more of an impact from Porzingis moving forward.
5. Hardaway Jr. and Finney-Smith's key 3-point shooting
A triple-double from Doncic aside, if Porzingis didn't play well, how did the Mavericks come away with a win?
Some big time 3-point shooting from wings Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith.
THJ is cookin' 👨🍳#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/KU8jgTSB97- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) May 22, 2021
Hardaway scored 21 points while shooting 5-for-9 from 3-point land and Finney-Smith added 18 points while shooting 4-for-5 from long distance. This clutch shooting served to be the biggest difference-maker in the contest, throwing a wrench into the Clippers' defensive game plan.
While Hardaway (39.1%) and Finney-Smith (39.4%) both shot the ball well from the perimeter all season long, that tandem going 9-for-14 (64.3%) from 3-point range in Game 1 certainly isn't something LA could have planned for.
It's these types of key performances from a supporting cast that make all the difference in the postseason.
6. Kawhi Leonard throws it down on Maxi Kleber
We're only two games into the 2021 NBA Playoffs but Kawhi Leonard threw down a Dunk of the Playoffs candidate in Game 1, slamming all over Mavericks centre Maxi Kleber.
OH MY GOODNESS, KAWHI 🤯🤯🤯#NBAPlayoffs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/LNNofvOWlc- NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2021
7. What's next?
The Clippers and Mavericks will face off for Game 2 on Tuesday, May 25 at 10:30 p.m. on TSN 3.
Will Porzingis step up to the challenge next time around and help Dallas steal two road games before returning home? Or will Leonard and George respond to even the series before heading to Texas?
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