The NBA might have lost the defending champs to elimination in the first round of the playoffs, but it will have a chance to feature two of its brightest stars in Game 7 on Sunday.
Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers will host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks with a second-round spot, and a matchup against the Utah Jazz, on the line. The NBA is looking for a new champion after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated this week.
He does not. The Clippers 4 may have had a home series advantage against the Mavericks, but comforts haven’t given either team an advantage.
As each team has won three games, none have won at home, making it the first time an NBA playoff series has won at least six games with the visiting team winning each time. However, the Mavericks will not claim to have an advantage in Los Angeles.
“It’s Game 7,” Doncic said. “No matter where you are, you have to leave everything on the court and that’s it.”
Leonard and Doncic have not disappointed in the series, with Doncic playing through a painful neck strain in Game 4 and still scoring 19 points in limited ability. He followed that up with 42 points in a Game 5 win.
It was Leonard’s turn to rise to the occasion in Game 6, scoring 45 points on 18 of 25 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. He then insisted he wasn’t putting the Clippers on his shoulders, but his game suggested otherwise.
“You definitely don’t want to go home,” Leonard said when asked about his mentality in playoff games. “(It’s) just something that I had, you know, I always wanted to win the game, try to exercise my will on the court, and my teammates had the same mindset.”
While Leonard won an NBA title and prevailed in Game 7 of the playoffs, Doncic has limited experience in the big games. This is only the second playoff series of his three-season career, and both have been against the Clippers after losing in the first round last season.
Doncic had 29 points and 11 assists in Game 6, hitting 11 of 24 shots from the field. Leonard has taken a more active role in defending Doncic as the series progressed, with Doncic shooting just 6-of-16 in the first three quarters on Friday without making a triple.
“I mean, he destroyed us,” Doncic said of Leonard’s Game 6 play. “That’s what it is. He had an amazing game. And that’s what he does.”
The supporting cast of the Mavericks did what they could. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points and Boban Marjanovic had 12 with nine rebounds in just his third series appearance and second start. But Kristaps Porzingis was limited to seven points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
Reggie Jackson contributed 25 points for the Clippers, while Paul George had 20 points and 13 rebounds. But Game 7 appears to be in the hands of Leonard (32.8 points per game) for Los Angeles and Doncic (34.0) for Dallas.
“Even when we don’t throw the ball well, we’re finding ways to win,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “We have done it three times on the floor of his house, and his audience was incredible. We were able to fight that and now we’re going home for Game 7. “
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