Clippers keep streak alive with 110-107 win over red-hot Mavericks
The L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks have two of the most efficient offenses in the NBA. They both rank among the top-five (Dallas has the league's best offensive rating) and both have red-hot, big-name scorers in Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic.
Over the last five games, Leonard has averaged 36.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game on 42.9 percent shooting from deep. Doncic, on the other hand, has averaged 24.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists.
So when these two teams combined to score just six points on 1-of-20 shooting through the first four minutes of the game, it was pretty surprising.
At the 7:19 mark in the first quarter, the Clippers held a 5-1 lead over the Mavericks. Nothing was falling for either team. Patrick Beverley was the only player to sink a shot to that point — all of the other points had been scored at the free-throw line.
After Leonard sunk two more free throws to push Dallas' deficit to six, the Mavericks called a timeout that effectively changed the pace of the game.
In the following minutes, both teams began to see their shots going down. From there, neither slowed down. A buzzer-beating bucket from Rodney McGruder tied the game at 24 at the end of the first, and after that, L.A. took control.
The Clippers outscored the Mavericks 36-25 in the second quarter, using a 16-0 run in the latter half of the frame to extend their lead to as many as 13.
Leonard had eight points in the quarter, including a monster slam dunk that he finished over Doncic.
At the half, L.A.'s balanced scoring attack was getting the job done. Leonard had a game-high 14 points, but Landry Shamet (12) and Lou Williams (10) scored in double-figures as well. Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac each chipped in nine. Unfortunately, Beverley wouldn't return after halftime due to a sore groin. As of now, there's no word as to whether he'll play Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
The third quarter belonged to Dallas, as they whittled L.A.'s lead down to as few as four points. Doncic was the star there, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Unsurprisingly, the Clippers struggled without Beverley setting the tone defensively.
At the start of the fourth, the Clippers were clinging to an 82-78 lead and nearly let the game slip away. Both teams battled for the next few minutes, trading bucket after bucket until the Mavericks had a 90-92 advantage with less than six minutes to go.
And then Kawhi took over.
Leonard scored 11 of his game-high 36 points in the final minutes of the game, extending his streak of 30-point performances to six — the third-longest such streak of his career. It was a lot of the same that we've seen from Leonard in recent weeks. He drilled his midrange jumpers without a second thought, and after starting the game 0-of-8 from three-point range, sank a clutch bucket from beyond the arc with 1:15 to go to put the Clippers up 108-100.
Shamet continued to supplement Leonard with points as well, as six of his season-high 18 were scored in the final three minutes of the game. It was as confident as he's looked all season long, and the Clippers wouldn't have been able to pull this one out without him.
The win brings the L.A. Clippers to 12-9 on the road and 31-13 overall, giving them sole possession of the Western Conference's second seed. It was the Clippers' fourth consecutive win, and it also ended Dallas' four-game streak.
L.A.'s next chance to extend their win streak comes tomorrow night when they take on the Atlanta Hawks. Leonard will likely rest and continue to manage his injury, so the Clippers could have to rely on Paul George if he's able to return. Otherwise, most of the offense will have to come from the bench.