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    Luka Doncic, Mavericks push Clippers to brink of elimination with Game 5 rout
    • May 2, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic came into Game 5 suffering from congestion and a lingering right knee sprain, which had caused him to be less mobile in the previous two games against the Clippers.

    He didn’t appear to be affected by either on Wednesday night at Arena.

    Doncic scored a game-high 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting and had seven rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Mavericks to a convincing 123-93 victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series. And it was the Clippers who were left looking queasy as they now face elimination when the series returns to Dallas for Game 6 on Friday.

    If necessary, Game 7 will be back in Los Angeles on Sunday.

    The Clippers went into Game 5 again without Kawhi Leonard, who missed his third game in the series because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee. But unlike the previous two games, George and Harden couldn’t fill the void left by Leonard. The two never appeared in sync Wednesday.

    For one, their 3-point attempts didn’t fall. They finished a combined 3 for 13 from long range. Other times they rushed shots, came up short on others or turned the ball over.

    Harden had been shooting 61% on his step-backs and 60% on his floaters, but neither turned out to be sustainable against a Dallas defense that zeroed in on the three-time league scoring champion.

    “I saw how they tried to guard him last game and so we just got to be, make sure we’re disciplined, make sure we’re poised and patient, get to our spacing if they’re going to guard like that, just attacking the basket, making the right play,” Coach Tyronn Lue said before the game.

    It was wishful thinking as the Mavericks limited Harden and George from gaining any real traction. Harden scored just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting, while George finished with 15 points but had 11 rebounds. The rest of the team failed to provide any real offense, shooting 37.9% from the field.

    Ivica Zubac cooled after a hot first quarter, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds, while Terance Mann had 11 points and seven rebounds. Russell Westbrook also struggled off the bench, missing his first eight shots before finally scoring in the third quarter.

    Meanwhile, Doncic didn’t let two early fouls or a stuffy nose slow him down. At Wednesday’s shootaround, he reportedly didn’t engage in much running and said he wasn’t sure how his knee would hold up.

    “Nothing, honestly,” he told reporters Wednesday morning of his participation. “Just treatment, a lot of treatments. Fitness. But basketball, I just shot. Nothing explosive.”

    He saved it all for the game, which turned into a one-sided affair midway through the third quarter. Doncic scorched the Clippers for 14 points in the third, stretching Dallas’ lead to 23 points during a 17-2 run. The Clippers missed nine consecutive shots and committed four turnovers during the 6:23 between their first and second baskets of the second half.

    The Mavericks kept the pressure on in the fourth, leading by as much as 32 points.

    Dallas shot 54% from the field and made 14 of 39 3-point shots. Maxi Kleber had 15 points (all on 3-pointers), Kyrie Irving finished with 14 points and six assists and Derrick Jones Jr. added 12 points.

    Lue eventually threw in the towel and had bench players close out the game.

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    The Clippers got off to a strong start behind Zubac and Mann, who got the team going with eight and seven points, respectively in the first quarter.

    Lue then switched out his starters for a lineup of Norman Powell, Westbrook, Mason Plumlee, Mann and Harden and the game got chaotic. The Clippers struggled to find the basket as Dallas began hitting nearly every shot to go up by eight points on a 3-pointer by Maxi Kleber at the 7:21 mark.

    It didn’t get much better as the Mavericks stretched their lead to 12 with a 12-4 run before George made two free throws in the final 12 seconds as Dallas settled for a 56-46 halftime lead.

    Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said before the game it was important to stop the Clippers from making 3-pointers and they achieved that goal in the first half. The Clippers were just 9 of 35 from behind the arc.

    Dallas is on the brink of its first playoff series victory since 2022 and only its third since winning the NBA title in 2011.

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register