The Los Angeles Clippers just suffered a 113-103 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs largely due to a dominant performance by Luka Doncic. The 22-year-old Mavs superstar finished the game with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Clips didn’t have an answer for him.
The Clippers fought back in the second half of the game, with the Mavericks outscoring Los Angeles by just four points in the final 12 minutes. L.A. made a few runs, and one memorable play in the third set a temporary fire under the entire Clippers squad.
With just under four minutes left to go in the third quarter, Kawhi Leonard stole the ball from Dallas guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and headed the other way on a breakaway. Mavs forward Maxi Kleber was the only player standing in his way, and well, let’s just say a poster was made on the ensuing dunk by Leonard. As it turns out, Kleber took umbrage with what happened afterward.
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Kleber: ‘Should Have Been a Technical’
After Leonard took flight and gave fans and viewers a monster dunk, when he landed, he and his teammates Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. gave Kleber a staredown under the basket. Here’s a look at the dunk:
Kleber noted that while he had no issue with the dunk itself, calling it an “amazing play,” It was the staredown afterward that bothered him. Here’s the staredown:
“I think the staredown should’ve been a technical foul, in my opinion,” Kleber said, via ABC News. “But that’s not my decision. I didn’t really care. I get up and try to keep playing, and we kept playing. Stuff like that happens. Obviously, it was an amazing dunk.”
Kleber also noted he doesn’t regret moving over to try to make a play on Leonard. “This is the playoffs, so I’m going to try to contest a shot,” Kleber said. “I don’t care about [being on a highlight]. You don’t try to give up easy baskets. I honestly didn’t expect him to jump up and dunk, but it’s not going to hold me back, because at the end of the day, every possession counts. I couldn’t foul. I would do it every time again.”
Kawhi’s Dunk Wasn’t Enough to Reinvigorate the Clips
While Leonard’s dunk brought Staples Center down, it ultimately wasn’t a game-changing play. “The reality is a play like that, it gets the building going, but it’s two points,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said about Leonard’s dunk. “We’ve just got to respond the right way by executing the next offensive play and the next defensive play. That game at that time could have gone either way, so I really liked the way we kept our composure, kept executing and were able to make some plays.”
The Mavs managed to steal home-field advantage away from Los Angeles, and now, Kawhi and company will be playing from behind. Whether they can come back and be a force to be reckoned with during the playoffs remains to be seen, but they’re not off to a very good start.
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