While Luka Doncic Shines, Paul George & Kawhi Leonard Disappear

Luka Doncic, left, guards Clippers star Kawhi Leonard

Getty Luka Doncic, left, guards Clippers star Kawhi Leonard

In the third quarter of the Clippers’ Game 5 loss to the Mavericks—a potentially devastating blow to a team with championship intentions—there were three All-NBA players on the floor. You’d be excused, though, if you had to wipe your spectacles multiple times because you could only find one. That’s because the two stars in Clippers uniforms were all but invisible.

While the Mavericks leaned enormously on star guard Luka Doncic in that critical matchup, the Clippers apparently could not rely on either Paul George, who had foul trouble, or Kawhi Leonard, who just had plain old basketball trouble.

George committed two quick fouls just five minutes into the third quarter and was sent to the bench. Leonard played all of the third, shooting 2-for-7 from the field with three turnovers and only four points.

Doncic? He had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, shooting 6-for-10 from the field. On the night, Doncic had 42 points, going 17-for-37 from the field, adding 14 assists and eight rebounds. Combined, George and Leonard scored 43 points on 14-for-34 shooting, with 15 rebounds and 11 assists. Essentially, it took two Clippers All-Stars to keep up with the Mavericks’ one.

“He’s the engine that drives our offense,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I mean, there’s no secret there. But this is a responsibility that he covets. I believe he views it as a privilege. The challenge is to manage the minutes, try to make sure we can keep him fresh, and do everything possible to lighten the load when we can.”

Clippers Have No Answer for Luka Doncic

Doncic himself admitted that the load was a bit too much in Game 5. But that was coming off a Game 4 performance in which he was clearly injured, unable to move his neck with ease because of a pinched nerve. With that in mind, several pundits wrote off the Mavericks’ chances in the series. But Doncic seemed to have gotten things turned around, health-wise.

“I mean, it wasn’t nothing that was that much,” Doncic said after the game. “Just like I said, some massages, iced down. And the most important thing was rest and, like I said, massage. Today was, I was feeling way better.”

And the Clippers defense, which has been so wildly inconsistent all season, allowed Doncic too much room to move, something George could not explain after the game. ‘

“I’m sure there was plays that we could have been more in gaps and helped each other a little bit better and a little bit more,” George said. “Right off the top of the head, I can’t pinpoint what was the problem there. But I can say that we could have done a better job; we could have had more opportunities or we could have been in gaps more than we were tonight.”

Where was Kawhi?

But the wider issue in Game 5 was Leonard, who had his worst game of the postseason just when the Clippers could least afford it. The Mavericks were trailing, after all, 70-64, just before George went out with that foul (his fourth) in the third quarter.

The Clippers scored just five points in the quarter from there. The Mavericks scored 25. It was 89-75 to start the fourth quarter. There is no way that, at a crucial point in the playoffs and with George sent out because of foul trouble, Leonard should allow his team to be outscored by that sort of margin.

Clippers coach Ty Lue said the Mavericks paid Leonard extra attention in the game.

"It's fun being in those environments," PG13 says he relishes hostile arenasSomething's got to give between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers. Neither team has won at home yet, and now it's the Mavs' turn. Luka Doncic scored 42 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. hit two free throws with eight seconds left, and Dallas won 105-100 at Staples Center on Wednesday night to take a…2021-06-03T15:14:20Z

“I thought they showed two or three bodies tonight,” Lue said. “They packed the paint to make sure Kawhi got off if it. I thought we got some great shots that we didn’t make. They enticed us to take threes instead of and keep attacking because we were so wide open. We didn’t make threes early on in the game, and they made some shots, gave them some confidence going into it. I thought we had great shots throughout the night. You know, you’re going to make some. You’re going to miss some.”

The Clippers’ two stars certainly did not make enough on Wednesday. The Mavs’ one star did.


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