Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Marcus Morris added 23 and the Los Angeles Clippers finally won at home, finishing off the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series.
Playing in front of a small but noisy mix of masked fans and cardboard cutouts, the Clippers did what neither team had been able to pull off in the first six games: win at home. It was the first time in NBA history the road team won the first six games of a playoff series.
The fourth-seeded Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll play the top-seeded Utah Jazz starting on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
Luka Doncic had 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Mavs, who have yet to win a playoff series since capturing the NBA championship in 2011. He finished the series with 250 points, 55 rebounds and 72 assists.
Paul George added 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Clippers. Their backups outscored Dallas’ reserves, 27-6, getting crucial contributions from Terance Mann (13 points) and Luke Kennard (11 points).
Trailing by eight at halftime, the Mavs outscored the Clippers 19-6 to open the third and take an 81-76 lead. Doncic had just two points in the run, with Dorian Finney-Smith hitting two three-pointers and Tim Hardaway Jr adding another. Finney-Smith finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Perhaps crucially, the Clippers hit 46.5% of their three-pointers compared to the Mavericks’ 27.8%.
The Clippers responded with a 24-4 spurt including 12 in a row to lead 100-85 going into the fourth. Morris made three 3-pointers and Kennard hit a pair. Leonard scored seven points, highlighted by a dunk off George’s pass. Defensively, Leonard came up with a big block and Mann helped contain Doncic, who had the Mavs’ only points over the end of the third.
In Sunday’s other game, Trae Young scored 25 of his 35 points in the first half and the Atlanta Hawks shook off Joel Embiid and a hostile crowd to beat Philadelphia in Game 1 of their second-round series.
Embiid raised a sledgehammer as he returned from a one-game absence with a cartilage tear in his right knee. He walked out with WWE star Triple H to a roaring ovation. Atlanta made 14 of its first 18 shots and had a 17-0 run in the first half. Embiid did his part with 39 points. Tobias Harris had 20 points and 10 rebounds.