Sunday, June 20

With the Clippers season on the line, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George became the stars Los Angeles needed

The Clippers could have easily bent. With less than five minutes left in the first quarter of Game 3 on Friday night against the Mavericks, Los Angeles faced a 19-point deficit. Luka Doncic was cooking. The American Airlines Center crowd was rocking. The Clippers were, well, “Clipping” like only they could, to the delight of critics around the world.

But Clippers coach Tyronn Lue sent his team a simple message when the score was 30-11: “Stay the course.” It’s easier to do that when you have two of the best players in the NBA running the ship.

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Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the way in the Clippers’ 118-108 comeback, which prevented the Mavericks from achieving an insurmountable 3-0 series lead. The dynamic duo was spectacular in Game 3, combining 65 points on 68.6 percent shooting, the highest combined field goal percentage for Leonard and George in any game as teammates.

Kawhi leonard 36 13-17 3-5 7-7 3 8 3
Paul george 29 11-18 2-6 5-5 4 7 1

“PG and Kawhi were fantastic” Lue said during their post-game media availability. “I thought PG really took us in that first half, and then Kawhi in the second half really took over the game. That’s what we need from those two guys … It was a total team effort, but like I said, Kawhi and PG really put us on his shoulders. “

Leonard and George did not perform poorly in Games 1 and 2, but were largely overshadowed by Doncic’s brilliance. The Dallas star had 44 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in Game 3, but this time it was Leonard and George who dictated the action.

The Clippers forwards scored at all levels, finding their way to the basket, shooting from midrange and sinking their attempts from beyond the arc. However, it never felt like any of the players monopolized the offense. It all came within the natural flow of the game.

They didn’t do it alone, of course. Los Angeles received timely contributions from Marcus Morris (15 points), Reggie Jackson (16 points) and Rajon Rondo (six points, eight assists, team-best plus 22). While Lue admitted there were some game plan mistakes that led to the Mavs looking easy, the defense improved a lot and got tougher down the stretch.

But as much as roleplayers may have an impact on the postseason stage, Game 3 was about the biggest names who rise to the occasion.

“We went down 0-2 and [Leonard and George] we are not discouraged, “said Lue.” Their conversation with the players, the things we have to do to improve and be better, they led that. And you went out and saw them play tonight. It was great to see. “

Now, the challenge for Leonard, George and the Clippers is to continue down that path. They’re still down 2-1, and with Doncic getting in their way, there’s a lot of work to do.

“We haven’t shown anything” George said. “We are not the favorites. We are not the defending champions. We haven’t shown anything. We have to keep doing it. We have to win this series. But it’s one game at a time. We have to win Game 4 and send it back to Los Angeles. , take advantage of the home court advantage. But in a victory we have not shown anything. “

Sure, it’s just a win, but the Clippers proved something: When Leonard and George play at the top of their powers, they won’t be an easy out for the Mavericks, or anyone else.

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