San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George scored 45 points apiece to lead the surging Clippers to a 105-92 victory over the two-time defending Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night that extended the Clippers’ lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1 and should ultimately determine which team gets to face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The 2017 NBA Finals are tied 1-1 heading into Game 3, but the series is far from over. The Los Angeles Clippers are hoping to buck the odds by keeping their much-anticipated playoff run going, while the Dallas Mavericks are hoping to salvage some dignity by tying the series at two games apiece. (Odds courtesy of OddsShark)The Los Angeles Clippers came to Dallas with an 0-2 record in the series and their future was hanging by a thread, but they came home with home field advantage and momentum thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing the relentless style they envisioned when they formed a team. For the second time in a row, Leonard and George scored 45 more points than Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in the first three quarters to help the Clippers break a 2-2 tie in their Western Conference first-round series with a 106-81 victory Sunday at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks could not contain Leonard for the third game in a row, with the All-Star forward hitting 11 of 15 times, 29 points and 10 rebounds. George scored 13 of his 20 points in the second quarter and the Clippers led 48-29 with 6:58 remaining in the half. I think we complemented each other perfectly, George said of how he and Leonard led the Clippers to victory in the series. Leonard] was constantly on top, attacking and putting pressure on their bigs at the rim. So do I. When he needs a break to catch his breath, I go on the attack. I think we just countered well. Ultimately, that’s what we wanted to achieve: share the space and do it together on both sides. That’s exactly what Leonard, George and the Clippers had in mind when the two stars joined the Clippers in the summer of 2019. Leonard is playing at a level that earned him his second NBA Finals MVP award when he led the Toronto Raptors to the championship in 2019. He was just too strong and powerful for Dallas to stop. He’s averaging 35.3 points in his last three games. Leonard, who led the Clippers to their last two wins in Dallas, went 24-for-32 overall in Games 3 and 4 and did the most damage with passes into the paint. But his message to the Clippers, after they lost the first two games of the series at home, was to get much better on defense. Doncic suffered from a nerve problem in his neck Sunday and made 9-of-24 shots with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. But the Clippers were pleased with their ability to slow down other Mavericks shooters playing in Los Angeles. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed seven of his eight shots and scored just four points, Dorian Finney-Smith scored just eight points and the Mavericks as a whole missed 25 of their 30 three-point attempts in Game 4. Dallas had home court advantage in the first two games of the series, hitting 35 of 70 attempts (50 percent) from beyond the arc. Since trailing 30-11 with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter of Game 3, the Clippers have scored 213-159 more points than Dallas. Now it’s up to the Mavericks to find a way to turn things around, otherwise their season could be over soon. We responded well, Leonard said of the team, which took his advice to play better defense. Especially since we came back from a 30-11 deficit in the third game. The job isn’t done yet, he added, so we need to stay sober and ready for the next task. The Clippers have pushed all the right buttons since leaving Los Angeles, where they had no answer for Doncic. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue opted for a sparse lineup and brought in Nicolas Batum in place of center Ivica Zubac as the Mavericks started Game 3 hot. The move allowed the Clippers to pass to Doncic’s defense, who scored when Zubac was in front of him. Liu started Game 4 against Batum in the starting five in place of Zubak, and the veteran forward responded with 10 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Batum said he studied films by Draymond Green and Boris Diaw to prepare to make the most of the versatility of a low center. While Batum helped on defense and moved the ball on offense, Leonard continued to punish the Mavericks with his shot. He hit his first five shots and scored 10 points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, George takes the lead. Doncic struggled to keep his team in the game, scoring 15 points before halftime. Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 18 points, was the only other Mavericks player to reach double figures in the first half. The Clippers extended their lead to 79-51 with 4:42 to go in the third period, giving home field advantage and momentum in this series back to Southern California. Liu said the Clippers will show who they really are in Game 3 when their backs are against the wall. They confirmed his promise when Batum said the Clippers never panicked despite trailing 2-0 in the series and trailing 30-11 in the first minutes of Game 3. We knew our mistakes, Batum said. We had to adapt. We knew what we were doing was wrong. It’s only 2-2, Batum added. We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. Technically, it should be 2-2. Now we have to go home and take care of our field and start the game on Wednesday, otherwise we could be in a bad situation if we don’t do our job on Wednesday.