Mavericks @ Clippers: All comes down to Game 7 as Los Angeles bid to become first team to win at home in the series
The only NBA playoff series to go six games without the home team winning heads back to Los Angeles, where the Clippers can advance with a Game 7 victory over Dallas and not worry about when they might see the Lakers.
Lose at home again on Sunday, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will have an 0-4 home record against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in this first-round series to go with the blown 3-1 lead in the second round against Denver last summer.
George is looking at the bright side.
“It’s about as good as you get at this time of year,” the seven-time All-Star said. “So we are looking forward to it. They are looking forward to it. They have played better there at home than we have. We’ve got to come out and we’ve got to counter that.”
The LA shadow of the Lakers and LeBron James disappeared with their first-round loss to Phoenix in six games.
Facing elimination in Dallas the next night, the Clippers trailed for long stretches before Leonard scored eight straight points late to give the Clippers a cushion and tie his playoff career high of 45 points in a 104-97 victory.
If they move on, the Clippers will be the lowest of the remaining Western Conference seeds at No 4. Still, Los Angeles could be the favourite to emerge in the West because of the tandem that joined forces two years ago hoping to get a hard-luck franchise into the conference finals for the first time.
Leonard and George will be playing to give themselves that chance, or otherwise leave Leonard with the offseason decision of whether to match the long-term extension George signed in December. Leonard has a 2021-22 player option on his deal.
The Clippers also have a chance to erase the memory of a Game 7 loss to the Nuggets in the playoff bubble that cost them a shot at James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers in the West finals. Their LA neighbours won the NBA title.
“I don’t live in the past,” said Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP. “It’s about tomorrow. That’s all it’s about, taking what I see from tonight’s game and try to bring it to the next one.”
Doncic is averaging 34 points per game in the series to 32.8 for Leonard. But, after much discussion between pundits as to the best way to deal with his threat, the Dallas sensation was guarded by the two-time defensive player of the year more in Game 6 than previously in the series.
The 22-year-old Doncic scored 29 points and shot 2 of 9 from three-point range after scoring 42 and going 6 of 12 from deep in a Game 5 road victory that followed two losses at home in front of by far the two biggest Dallas crowds of the season.
The Mavericks bounced back from the first letdown at home. Now they have to do it again as they seek the franchise’s first postseason series victory since the 2011 NBA Finals.
“It’s all right,” Doncic said. “I don’t think why we shouldn’t believe in it. So there’s one more game, so we all believe.”
Tip-off is at 8.30pm UK time on Sunday, and you can watch for free on skysports.com, the Sky Sports app and the Sky Sports YouTube channel.
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