The collaboration between star bookends worked well in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round playoff game against the Dallas Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Clippers to a 118-110 win against the Mavericks. Game 2 of the series takes place on Wednesday.
“I’m happy we got the win tonight,” Leonard said. “Still think we trying to build our chemistry. Obviously still enjoying this journey. We got a lot to build from. We’re going to look at the film and see what we can improve from.”
Besides Leonard’s output, the other half of this equation is the contribution Paul George made in the victory.
When George came over to the Clippers after Leonard arrived, the Clippers went from going nowhere to the upper echelon of teams. George and Leonard give the Clippers two of the best perimeter defensive players on the planet. On top of that, both George and Leonard make the offensive flow of the Clippers offense look more open, thus giving Los Angeles two teams with legit chances to win the NBA championship.
George scored 27 points in his Clippers postseason debut.
“It was great. It was great. I think we both picked each other up,” George said. “We both helped each other. Kawhi, there’s a reason he’s been who he is in this league. He’s an unbelievable leader. He picked us up on occasions. I’ve been the guy. I’ve been the guy on teams I’ve been
on, been co-being the guy on teams I’ve been on. I know how it is. I know how it is. I don’t ever want to have him believe that the pressure is all on him. I want to be able to uplift him, help him, and vice versa.”
Leonard and George could not win the ballgame by themselves. They needed some help from the other players. And they got it. Marcus Morris Sr. picked up 19 points for the Clippers as one of the team’s starting forwards as Montrezl Harrell, in his first game back with the team after a sustained absence, played a limited role.
He was solid,” Rivers said. “He was patient. I thought he was actually one of our more patient players tonight. He kind of just let the matchups happen. When they did happen in his favor, he took advantage of it. I don’t think he forced anything. He kind of let the game come to him. I didn’t think a lot of our guys did that tonight. I thought we were trying to force action instead of letting the game come to us.”
The win had one catch for the Clippers that no doubt caught the eye of Rivers. Dallas star Luka Doncic sort of went wild, making 13 of his 21 shots from the field to score 42 points, the most ever scoring output from a player making his debut in the postseason.
“He’s amazing,” said Rivers. “I thought we guarded him pretty well, forced him into a lot of tough shots, forced him into 11 turnovers. I thought what we did poorly, what shows his greatness, is every time we made a mistake on the weak side, he found that guy and that guy made a shot. I didn’t mind his basket attacks. I didn’t mind his threes. I mind our help so he could get the assists. I’ll give up the points to him, I just don’t want to give up the points and the assists. I think we allowed him to have both tonight.”