Clippers make record six straight victories in triumph over Mavericks

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Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers made it an NBA-record six straight victories for the road team in a playoff series, beating the Dallas Mavericks to level their first-round series at 3-3.

Now they have to figure out how to beat Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks at home in a Game 7 to avoid another bitter postseason disappointment.

Leonard tied his playoff career high with 45 points and the Clippers beat the Mavericks 104-97 on Friday night, winning for the third time in front of a raucous Dallas crowd more than three times bigger than any during the regular season.

This time it was a tense finish keyed by the two-time NBA Finals MVP after double-digit LA victories in the first two games in Dallas.

“Great players perform in big moments,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It just shows you who Kawhi Leonard is.”

Leonard and Paul George get their first chance to eliminate the team they beat in six games in the first round in the Florida playoff bubble last August. Game 7 takes place on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Luka Doncic scored 29 points but was just 2-of-9 from three-point range as the LA defense turned up the pressure in key moments and held Dallas to 29 per cent shooting in the fourth quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr had 23 points but missed a three-pointer and a lay-up in the closing minutes.

After coming home with a 2-0 series lead and losing twice, the Mavericks lost a close-out game for just the second time in seven games under coach Rick Carlisle. Now Dallas have to bounce back from the disappointment of another missed opportunity on the home court.

“We’ve done it before already in this series,” said Kristaps Porzingis, the European sidekick to Doncic who was relegated to a secondary role on offense and finished with just seven points on seven shots in 31 minutes. “We feel like we can beat them, and we’ll see who’s right and who’s wrong.”

The Mavericks were down 90-88 when Maxi Kleber missed an open corner three. Leonard scored the next eight LA points, including back-to-back three-pointers for a 98-90 lead with 1:41 remaining.

A night after the other Los Angeles team was eliminated when LeBron James and the Lakers lost to Phoenix, the Clippers trailed for long stretches before going in front for good with six minutes left on a jumper by George, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Reggie Jackson scored 14 of his 25 points in the first quarter to help keep LA close early. Leonard took over from there.

The five-time All-Star made all five of his shots in the fourth quarter, including the consecutive threes, as LA shot 63 per cent in the final quarter. Leonard was 18-of-25 overall and 5-of-9 from deep.

“He destroyed us,” Doncic said. “He had a hell of a game. That’s what he does.”

The biggest lead for either team from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the third was a seven-point Dallas edge in the third.

The Clippers erased that deficit quickly with their best defensive intensity of the game to that point, sparking an 11-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Leonard.

LA left Dorian Finney-Smith open for a three-pointer that helped Dallas go back in front, and the Mavericks later scored the final five points of the third for a 77-73 lead.

And the Clippers outscored the Mavericks 31-20 in the final frame to ensure the road team won in this series for the sixth consecutive time, sending it to a Game 7 decider, on Sunday at 8.30pm UK time.

SKYSPORTS