DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 42 points and the Dallas Mavericks split a two-game set against their first-round playoff opponent from last season, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-89 on Wednesday night.
Josh Richardson scored 14 points and was a defensive spark as the Mavericks answered a 109-99 loss two nights earlier and won the season series, 2-1. The other Dallas victory was by 51 points in LA three games into the season in December. The Clippers beat the Mavs in six games last summer in the NBA’s playoff bubble.
Paul George had 28 points for the Clippers, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter that cut a 12-point deficit in half going to the fourth.
Doncic, who scored 22 points in the first half, took over in the fourth quarter, assisting on a 3 for Jalen Brunson’s first points of the game and hitting a fadeaway jumper and a 3 to get the lead back to 12 at 87-75.
Richardson, added in an offseason trade that cost the Mavericks their best 3-pointer shooter in Seth Curry as they tried to improve defensively, affected the game in just the way Dallas envisioned.
The fiery guard had two steals on inbound plays after Dallas baskets in the first half, one of them after his own 3-pointer. Richardson, who finished with three steals, also blocked Reggie Jackson‘s dunk attempt in transition before halftime.
Doncic offered an early glimpse of a special night when he hit an off-balance 3-pointer as he was fouled by Leonard and converted the four-point play.
With George hounding him as the Clippers tried to rally in the fourth quarter, Doncic found Maxi Kleber for a 3, then connected with him in an alley-oop dunk on his ninth and final assist to get the lead to 15.
Kristaps Porzingis, Doncic’s European sidekick, had a quiet night on offense with 11 points but had 13 rebounds as Dallas won the battle of the boards after losing it two nights earlier.
Clippers: C Serge Ibaka missed his second consecutive game with lower back tightness. … Leonard missed both free throws in the third quarter after Dallas coach Rick Carlisle unsuccessfully challenged a foul call. Tim Hardaway Jr. thought he thwarted a dunk attempt by knocking the ball loose without fouling, but replay showed him grazing Leonard’s right hand.
Mavericks: Dorian Finney-Smith was out because of the birth of his son earlier in the day. … F James Johnson was missed a third consecutive game and will be out for both upcoming games in Portland. Johnson has to pass a series of COVID-19 tests before he can rejoin the team after going to Wyoming to attend to personal business.
Clippers: Coming off three games in four days, LA gets two days off before a home game Saturday against Charlotte, which has lost 10 consecutive games at Staples Center dating to 2009.
Mavericks: A stretch of eight out of nine games on the road starts with two in a row in Portland. The first is Friday. The Trail Blazers won the only meeting in Dallas last month.