Clippers vs. Mavericks score, takeaways: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles destroy Dallas in Game 4 to even series – CBSSports.com
The Los Angeles Clippers dominated the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night, 106-81, to even their best-of-seven series at 2-2. After dropping both games in Los Angeles, the Clippers faced all sorts of criticism from fans and media alike but they have responded in the best way possible by taking back homecourt advantage.
Kawhi Leonard was able to do whatever he wanted on the offensive end as he finished the game with 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. While he wasn’t as efficient as Leonard, Paul George put up 20 points and nine rebounds of his own to help Los Angeles get off to an early lead that they never surrendered.
On the other side, Mavericks star Luka Doncic scored 19 points but did not enjoy the type of success on the offensive end that we saw over the first three games of this series as he needed 24 attempts from the field to hit that number. That alone limited any real chance that Dallas had in this game.
With the win, the Clippers now own all the momentum as the series shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 5. That matchup will take place on Wednesday night as the opening tip is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET with TNT handling the broadcast.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Leonard, George dominate
A few minutes into Game 4, Luka Doncic spun in the paint and looked to have an easy layup to put the Mavericks up 6-0. Instead, Kawhi Leonard swooped in, swatted the shot away and started a fastbreak that ended with a Nic Batum 3-pointer. The next time down, the Mavericks bricked a 3-pointer of their own, Leonard snatched the rebound and waltzed into the lane for a layup. When the Clippers got the ball again, Leonard found Paul George, who worked his way into the paint for a short little jumper to give L.A. the lead at 7-6. They would never trail again.
That sequence was a perfect microcosm of the game, as Leonard and George put together a dominant performance to almost beat the Mavericks by themselves. The Clippers needed those two to lead the way on the road, and they delivered in a major way, combining for 49 points, 19 rebounds and six assists while shooting 17-for-31 from the field.
Right from the opening tip, Leonard and George made it clear that they were going to play physical and get the ball into the paint, and the Mavericks had no answer. No Dallas defenders could stay in front of either of them in one-on-one situations, and it was a steady stream of layups or easy kick-outs to open shooters. Obviously, it helped that the Mavericks were struggling to score on the other end, but Leonard and George set a tone early that carried on throughout the game.
2. Clippers tie the series
After the Clippers went down 2-0 at home, the columns about another playoff failure were already being prepped. And when they trailed by 19 points in Game 3, there was more than enough material to start writing. Since then, however, the Clippers have flipped the script.
They staged an impressive comeback in Game 3, and then came out and dismantled the Mavericks on Sunday night in Game 4. All of a sudden they’ve retaken homecourt advantage, and the series is all tied up at 2-2 heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
This series is still far from over, but if things continue on this path, it would be a truly fascinating turnaround. From a historic perspective, there’s been 427 playoff series where a team was down 2-0. Only 27 (6.3 percent) of those teams have come back to win. Plus, there’s the fact that the Clippers are known for blowing leads in the playoffs, including a 3-1 advantage against the Nuggets in the second round last season. No one expected them to be the team staging an incredible comeback.
3. Nothing goes right for Mavericks
Over the course of the season, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have nights where things just don’t go your way. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they had one of them in the playoffs, where everything is magnified.
The problems started on the defensive end. They trailed nearly the entire way, and simply couldn’t keep the Clippers out of the lane. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were getting by their defenders at will, and earning paint touches on a majority of their possessions. From there, it was too easy, as the Clippers scored 44 points in the paint, and shot 39.4 percent from 3-point land on a series of easy looks.
Speaking of the 3-point line, the Mavericks had been unstoppable from beyond the arc in the first three games of the series. They shot 55-for-109, and at 50.5 percent were leading the rest of the playoff teams by nearly 10 percent. In Game 4, they went 5-for-30, and that cold shooting was a major factor in their defeat. It’s not always as simple as the team that makes the most 3-pointers wins, but when you get outscored by 24 from downtown, it’s just hard to make up that kind of deficit.
Finally, there was Luka Doncic’s injured neck. The young phenom was listed as questionable heading into Game 4 due to a neck strain that was radiating down into his arm. He gave it a go and was able to get through the entire game, but he was in clear distress all night long and played his worst game of the series. Shooting 9-for-24 from the field and turning the ball over four times, Doncic finished with 19 points, six rebound and six assists. The good news for him and the Mavericks is that they have an extra day off before Game 5. Hopefully that will be enough time for him to start feeling better.