LOS ANGELES — Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was drilling big fourth-quarter shots in the midst of yet another 40-point explosion against the LA Clippers.
But Kawhi Leonard made sure the Clippers’ longest losing streak of his era with Paul George didn’t continue. Leonard answered two long 3-pointers by Doncic with a 3-pointer and then three free throws after he was fouled while shooting a 3 in the final 2:17 to help the Clippers get a much-needed 113-101 win over the Mavericks on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Leonard finished with a season-high 33 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals to help snap a six-game slide for the Clippers, who were without George (hamstring) and Luke Kennard (calf). Doncic did his best to try to stick it to the Clippers once again, finishing with 43 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, with 20 of his points coming in the final 9:23. It was Doncic’s ninth 40-point game this season, which leads the league.
Dallas trailed by as much as 23 in the third quarter, but Doncic caught fire at the end, scoring 14 consecutive points at one point in the fourth to get Dallas within eight points twice. Despite having been eliminated by the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs in 2019-20 and 2020-21, Doncic has had some of his most memorable games and clutch shots against LA.
But on Tuesday night, each time Dallas cut the deficit to eight, Leonard answered.
For Leonard, this was his second 30-point game of the season as he continues to build his way back after missing all of last season recovering from a torn right ACL. This also was the third time in his career that he scored at least 30 points while shooting 75%, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
« I’m gradually just getting my feet under me, » said Leonard, who made 9 of 12 shots and 12 of 12 from the line against Dallas. « I’m starting to play 35-plus minutes, able to get [out of] that minutes restriction where it cuts you in and out those games, playing five-minute segments, six-minute segments here and there. So, just a continuous thing. Just keep getting better, stay healthy and just see where we could go from here. »
Leonard played 36 minutes after logging 38 on Sunday against Atlanta. He has logged 31 or more minutes in nine of his past 10 games, with the only exception being his 18 first-half minutes in a blowout loss to Denver last Thursday when coach Ty Lue benched his starters at halftime.
While the Clippers still hold Leonard out of a game on back-to-back sets, Leonard said playing under a minutes restriction was frustrating.
« If you’re basing it on minute restriction, it is frustrating, » Leonard said. « Because I’m not going in there jacking shots, so I’m trying to play team basketball. It was frustrating [with the restriction]. We were losing games. From a minute restriction, I’m not the only one either that was on it. Guys have been in and out the lineup all year, getting injured.
« So, just gotta stay the course and hope for the best. I’ve been in the league for a while, so just know if you just keep punching [and] punching, you could eventually knock down something. »