DALLAS - Kawhi Leonard put together one of the greater two-way performances in NBA playoff history in Game 6. With the LA Clippers winning 104-97 on Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks will face off on Sunday to decide who advances.
Leonard not only tied his playoff career-high in scoring with 45 points, he disrupted Luka Doncic with his on-ball defense. In Game 7, the Mavericks will need to find a way to overcome that type of game-changing impact.
Leonard raised his game when his team needed him most, scoring 12 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter. He went a perfect 5/5 from the field with a pair of makes from deep.
"Great players perform in big moments," Lue said. "It just shows you who Kawhi Leonard is."
While Leonard put together an incredible clutch-time performance, Doncic was worn out in the game's final stages. This has become a problematic theme for the Mavericks as the series has progressed.
During the fourth quarter of games this series, Doncic is averaging just 4.8 points while going 31.4% from the field, 25.0% from deep, and 37.5% on free throws. That's not going to cut it in a pivotal Game 7...
Not only has Doncic shouldered a massive 39.2% usage rate in this series, the Clippers have made it a point to hunt him on defense. When he's most tired, he's being thrown in a situation where he has to defend Leonard.
“He just has the ball in his hands so much. He controls the game. And we can see it was wearing him down and getting him tired. Our last six minute package we wanted to make sure we involved him and tried to get the mismatch. They were switching so Kawhi was able to take advantage of it. PG was as well, so. When he’s tired and worn out that’s when we want to try to take advantage of the switching and make him defend as well. Try to make his legs heavy coming down on the other end of the floor.”
For the Mavericks to win Game 7, surely, Doncic will need to find a way to will himself to a big fourth quarter performance - something he's struggled to do. Finding that extra ounce of energy in the end from the hype of this game will be vital.
“It’s Game 7. It doesn’t matter where you are,” Doncic said, “You have to leave everything on the court. And that’s it.”
The rest of Doncic's supporting cast will need to be ready to play, too. Tim Hardaway Jr. has repeatedly stepped up in a major way but the whole team needs to be on point ready to shoot the ball and to compete defensively.
“It’s going to be a war, so we’re going to be prepared,” Kristaps Porzingis said in reference to Game 7.
The winner takes on the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena on Tuesday. Will it be Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks? Or will Kawhi Leonard put the LA Clippers over the top once again? Stay tuned...