The Dallas Mavericks were looking to finally break their home losing streak in their first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, and it was their last chance to get a win at the American Airlines Center. It was also an opportunity to finish the series without having to go back to LA for a tough Game 7.
To get the victory, it was clear that they would need another big performance from their superstar Luka Doncic, who was nigh-unstoppable while he’s been healthy in the Mavericks’ wins in Game 1, 2 and 5.
Things looked good for the Mavs during large portions of the game, but two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard wasn’t quite ready to watch the rest of the playoffs on TV.
Leonard was an unstoppable force of nature, and there was absolutely nothing that the Mavericks defense could do to stop him. He poured in 45 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while scoring from everywhere on the floor. Mid-range jumpers? Check. Stepback threes? Check. Hard drives and dunks? Check. It was a masterpiece of a performance that just adds to his reputation as one of the game’s most lethal closers.
Paul George had a rough start to his shooting, but he contributed in a lot of other ways, with his line of 20 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks. He also started to get it going in the fourth, which was big for LA. Reggie Jackson also had another good game with 25 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Doncic wasn’t as unstoppable in Game 6, and though his stat line wasn’t as impressive, he still contributed 29 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists and 4 steals. His long-range shots weren’t falling, so he did the wise thing and did his damage by scoring at the rim and using his passing.
With the Clippers defense blitzing him on most possessions, Doncic needed every bit of help from his teammates, and they delivered for the first three quarters.
Doncic did a good job of moving the ball around and splitting double-teams to get to open men, especially taking advantage of Boban Marjanovic’s height to get him easy layups. Marjanovic finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds and an assist. He also made great use of drive and kick opportunities to get his teammates open threes.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 23 points, while Dorian Finney-Smith had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Dorian Finney-Smith also answered the call and chipped in 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Unfortunately for the Mavericks, when it mattered most, their shooting failed them. After Hardaway Jr. completed an and-one to give Dallas the 85-84 lead with 7:26 to go, they couldn’t buy a bucket until it was already too late.
The Clippers went up 90-85 with 5:03 left in the game. Then, Doncic finally hit his first three pointer of the night to make it 90-88. With a lot of misses from both sides, it was Leonard who blew open the lead and made it 95-88 with a patented midrange jumper and then a big three.
Doncic cut it to 95-90 with a drive with just over two minutes left, but Leonard hit another stepback three to make it 98-90 and effectively put the game out of reach.
The Clippers earned this victory with their huge fourth quarter, which saw them outscore the Mavericks 31-20.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle will have some questions to answer, especially as to why he didn’t play Marjanovic in the fourth quarter when their jump shots weren’t falling. He was effective against the Clippers’ smaller lineup.
The questions about Kristaps Porzingis are also continuing to build up as he had another ineffective game with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block. While he had some good defensive moments, a 7’3″ man with his skillset is contributing far too little.
Let’s all celebrate that we now get a Game 7 in this compelling series. Personally, just like Kawhi, I wasn’t quite ready for this series to end yet.