Clippers vs Mavericks score, takeaways: Kawhi Leonard leads Los Angeles to Game 1 win over Dallas

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The Dallas Mavericks may not have won their playoff debut against the ever-popular Los Angeles Clippers, but they have acquitted themselves fairly well in a near upheaval. Despite Kristaps Porzingis’ controversial ejection in the third quarter and an early injury to Luka Doncic, Dallas held a double-digit lead at one point and kept the play competitive throughout the fourth quarter. Still, the Clippers ended up doing well, 118-110, thanks to their superior depth and an incredible night from their superstars. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 56 Clippers points.But if one player stood out tonight, it was Luka. The second Mavericks set the record for most points in his playoff debut with 42 of 13 of 21 shots, and the Mavericks needed every one of them. They only scored 46 points in almost half after the expulsion of Porzingis. The Mavericks needed Doncic to be a superstar tonight, and he more than succeeded. With Porzingis returning for Game 2, Dallas must feel good about their chances against the Clippers for the remainder of the series.

1. Maybe it’s not such a bad game for Luka after all?

Confirmation bias is a dangerous thing. We came into the year assuming Leonard and George would swallow bigger wings like Doncic on the defensive end, and when they kept Luka just 4 of 14 in their first game of the season, it confirmed that assumption. This was the answer we expected, so we never delved into the question. But in Doncic’s next two clashes with the Clippers, Doncic averaged 32.5 points on solid shooting numbers. The basketball world ignored him. The case was already closed.

And now we have to reopen it. The Clippers threw the kitchen sink at Luka. Leonard, George and Patrick Beverley all took turns against him. As worrying as the 11 turnovers are, his performance with Porzingis cannot be considered anything less than a total victory. If you can score 42 points on the Clippers, you can score 42 points on anyone. He won’t shoot 13 of 21 from the field every night, but he won’t need to. Dallas will shoot better as this series progresses. Porzingis is a real shift for the Clippers. The only real concern for the Mavericks entering this series offensively was how their Maestro would fare against the best collection of Wing Defenders on Earth. He passed the test. They might not be able to get saves in this series, but Dallas can score. Their supposed match problems are not as bad as expected.

2. Show Harrell is not ready

The Clippers can live with Montrezl Harrell scoring just six points. They can’t live with it playing 15 minutes mostly lifeless. Harrell is their spark plug. Her energy is contagious and the driving force behind most of their bench success. He might not start matches, but he’ll end them when it counts. The Lakers have no problem with Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green. Harrell will be a 30-minute player in the biggest games of the postseason.

No one expected him to be perfectly conditioned in Game 1 of the playoffs. It will be a competitive series, so the Clippers will have playing time to update him. But it should be clear at this point that they are not yet 100%. They won’t be until Harrell is properly conditioned for postseason basketball. If it’s not in time for their probable Western Conference final battle with the Lakers, the Clippers will be in serious trouble.

3. Playoff P finally lives up to its name

Paul George’s questionable reputation in the playoffs is largely unfair. His shooting drops slightly, but his overall performance is generally in line with what he did in the regular season. But when you give yourself the nickname “Playoff P”, the bar goes up. George hasn’t won a series since 2014. His fourth quarters in that span have gone largely badly. George shot 28.6% from the field in minutes against Utah in the 2018 playoffs. It was an improvement on his 20% performance against Cleveland in 2017.

Game 1s of the first round aren’t going to calm all the skeptics, but George was essential in the fourth quarter of it. He made four of his six shot attempts in the last frame, including the 3-point dagger with 42.6 seconds left to put the game aside. Anything less than a championship will be a bummer for George, but hey, it never hurts to fill out your resume a little earlier in the playoffs.

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