Clippers force Game 7 against Mavericks with Kawhi Leonard masterpiece
The Los Angeles Clippers rallied with a 104-97 Game 6 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at American Airlines Center, which tied the first-round playoff series at 3-3.
The Clippers and Mavericks will play a decisive Game 7 on Sunday at Staples Center, and the winner will face the top-seeded Utah Jazz beginning on Tuesday.
This marked the first time in NBA playoff history each team won on the road through Game 6. Talk about a home-court disadvantage. Below are the key takeaways from the game.
1. Kawhi Leonard had a playoff masterpiece.
Get ready to watch this highlight endlessly. Leonard called for a one-on-one matchup against Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Then Leonard drained a deep 3-pointer for a dagger shot that gave the Clippers a 95-88 lead with 2:20 left. After Doncic countered with a floater, Leonard nailed another step-back 3.
When the buzzer sounded, Leonard finished with 45 points while shooting 18-of-25 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range. That tied his playoff career-high from a 45-point outing for the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
LEONARD STEPBACK 3.. BANG!!!
He's got 45.
Clippers by 8 with under 2:00 left.#NBAPlayoffs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/tcGEZoae8n
— NBA (@NBA) June 5, 2021
2. The Clippers won this game on defense.
Sure, Leonard and Paul George (20 points) came up big after folding during pressure-packed moments in last year’s playoffs. But the Clippers mostly secured this game on defense. The Clippers held the Mavs to 41.6% shooting and a 32.4% mark from 3-point range.
Though Doncic (29 points on 11-of-24 shooting) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (23 on 9-of-19 shooting) still showed some brilliance, the Mavs’ respective star and dependable role player had to work awfully hard for their shots.
3. Reggie Jackson became a surprise contributor.
Raise your hand if you thought Jackson would become a reliable playoff contributor. Few outside of the Clippers saw this coming. Jackson finished with 25 points while shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range after averaging a modest 10.7 points per game in the regular season.
That Jackson became the Clippers’ go-to option in the first quarter isn’t necessarily a good thing. While Jackson had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from deep, the rest of the Clippers had only 12 points on a 5-of-12 clip and 1-of-5 from 3. Still, Jackson surprisingly came ready for the moment.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Clippers force Game 7 vs. Mavericks after Kawhi Leonard masterpiece