Advertisement

Luka Doncic scores 35 points, leads Mavericks to 123-93 victory and 3-2 series lead over Clippers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Luka Doncic is playing on a sprained right knee that would probably sideline him in the regular season. The Dallas star also has been congested and ill for several days, fighting a bug that’s forcing him to blow his nose during timeouts.

Doncic simply refused to be slowed in Game 5 — not by multiple ailments, and certainly not by any Los Angeles Clippers during a blowout victory that put his Dallas Mavericks on the brink of the second round.

Doncic scored 20 of his 35 points in the second half and added 10 assists and seven rebounds, propelling the Mavericks to a 123-93 victory Wednesday night and a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.

Maxi Kleber hit five 3-pointers and Kyrie Irving added 14 points for the Mavericks, who clamped down on the Clippers defensively and handed Los Angeles the biggest margin of defeat in its playoff history. Dallas needs one more win to claim its first playoff series victory since 2022 and only its third since winning the NBA title in 2011.

“I think it was a very big game,” Doncic said. “We win, and now we’ve got to win one out of two. We’ve got to go back to Dallas and play the same way.”

Game 6 is Friday night in Dallas. If necessary, Game 7 will be back in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Doncic’s injured knee has limited him at times in the series, and the symptoms of his apparent illness are slowing him down as well. But he clearly got more comfortable and more dangerous as the night went on in downtown Los Angeles.

He had 14 points in the third quarter while the Mavs stretched their lead to 25 and eventually took an 89-69 advantage into the fourth, where the Clippers never threatened to do an imitation of Dallas’ rally from a 31-point deficit in Game 4.

Doncic said his illness made things “tough,” and his knee is “not really good.”

“But you talk about adrenaline in a playoff game,” he added. “Once you get started, you want to do everything you can to help your team win. I just wanted to keep going.”

When these teams met in the first round three seasons ago, Dallas also won Game 5 on the road and traveled home with a chance to clinch. The Clippers won the next two to claim the series in seven games — but the star of that comeback was Kawhi Leonard, who hasn’t been able to overcome his own nagging ailments in this series.

Paul George and Ivica Zubac scored 15 points apiece for the Clippers, who played their second straight game and third of the series without Leonard. LA’s leading scorer has right knee inflammation at the most critical point in the season, and his teammates were unable to win without him in Game 5 after doing it twice earlier in the series.

Leonard’s fellow stars couldn’t step up in Game 5, although Dallas’ defense deserved much of the credit. The Clippers hit went 9 for 35 on 3-point attempts in Game 5 after making 18 3s in Game 4.

“I think it was just the carryover from Game 4, talking about it, watching it,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “Being able to play with pace on offense, but just doing a good job of taking the 3 out of the game.”

George went 4 for 13 and missed four of his six 3-point attempts, failing to assert himself offensively except during a brief stretch of the third quarter.

Harden had another perplexing playoff performance, going 2 for 12 and missing six of his seven 3s. Russell Westbrook also struggled off the bench, missing his first eight shots before finally scoring in the third quarter.

George was calm after the thrashing, simply citing “uncharacteristic mistakes that we made.”

“That wasn’t who we’ve been in this series, and that’s not who we are,” George added. “We’ve got to be better, especially in this situation. But we’ve been here before, going to Dallas being down 3-2, so we’ve just got to have a win-only mentality in Dallas.”

Both teams pulled their starters midway through the fourth quarter, grabbing rest for the potential closeout in Dallas.

“We just didn’t play well all around,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Defensively, offensively, we just didn’t play a good game. That’s OK. Turn the page.”

Although Doncic and Irving each missed their first three 3-point attempts in the first half of Game 5, Dallas got 12 first-half points from Kleber, the German shooter who famously hit a buzzer-beating 3 in this building to beat the Lakers just over a year ago.

The loss left the Clippers facing the possibility that it was their last game as the home team at the downtown Los Angeles arena they share with the Lakers. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s palatial Intuit Dome opens next season in Inglewood.

___

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KXAN Austin.