Kawhi Leonard tied his playoff career-high with 45 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 104-97 on Friday night, forcing a Game 7 in the first postseason series in NBA history with the road team winning the first six games.
The Clippers won for the third time in front of a raucous Dallas crowd more than three times bigger than any during the regular season, this time in a tense finish after the first two LA road victories were by double digits.
The victory gives Leonard and Paul George their first chance to eliminate the team they beat in six games in the Florida playoff bubble last August. Game 7 is Sunday in Los Angeles.
Luka Doncic scored 29 points but was just 2 of 9 from 3-point range as the LA defense turned up the pressure in key moments and held Dallas to 29% shooting in the fourth quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 23 points but missed a 3-pointer and a layup 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.
The Mavericks were down 90-88 when Maxi Kleber missed an open corner 3. Leonard scored the next eight LA points, including back-to-back 3-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, while Doncic’s European sidekick, Kristaps Porzingis, was a nonfactor with seven points on just seven shots in 31 minutes.
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 3-pointer from Leonard.
LA left Dorian Finney-Smith open for a 3-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.
Terry Stotts and Trail Blazers part ways
No team in the NBA has a longer active streak of postseason appearances than the Portland Trail Blazers, who have gotten there in each of the last eight seasons.
That wasn’t enough to save Terry Stotts, and Portland will have a new coach next season.
The Trail Blazers and Stotts parted ways , ending a nine-year run that saw the team good enough to get to the playoffs — but not good enough to get past the first round in four of the last five seasons.
“I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons,” Blazers President Neil Olshey said. “This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction.
“Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best.”
It was being termed as a mutual decision. The move was made one day after Portland’s season ended with a six-game, first-round ouster at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, a defeat that had Blazers guard Damian Lillard taking to social media after the game to indicate his frustration.