LOS ANGELES (AP) — A familiar face sat behind the Dallas Mavericks’ bench. Dirk Nowitzki, who led the franchise to its only championship in 2011 during his 21 seasons, came to see his old franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since its title.
Led by Luka Doncic, this edition is looking pretty good.
“I certainly believe him being there tonight was a lucky charm for us,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
Doncic scored 39 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 28 and the Mavs again outshot the NBA’s best 3-point team in a 127-121 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“We can’t rest,” Hardaway said. “We know what they’re capable of.”
Kristaps Porzingis added 20 points and Maxi Kleber had 13. Hardaway hit a playoff career-high six 3-pointers and Doncic had five as fifth-seeded Dallas was 18 of 34 from long-range. The Mavs made 17 3-pointers in winning Game 1 on Saturday.
“The mentality was, go out there, play aggressive, have fun,” Doncic said.
The fourth-seeded Clippers were led by Kawhi Leonard, who scored 30 of his 41 in the first half. Paul George had 28 points and 12 rebounds.
“I’m pretty sure everyone expected us to win this,” George said. “They’re playing free and with confidence and I think we’re giving them a little too much confidence. It’s up to us to shut that down.”
Leonard added, “Just got to stay focused and keep an eye on the prize. We got to play defense. Too many easy baskets out there for Dallas.”
Game 3 is Friday in Dallas, where the Mavs will have several thousand more fans on hand than were allowed at Staples Center.
“I’m not concerned,” first-year Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They won two games on our home floor and now we got to return the favor.”
The Clippers threw just about every body they had at Doncic in an effort to slow the player that burned them with a triple-double in Game 1. But once again, the All-Star got plenty of help from his supporting cast.
“To this point, we’ve been very focused and very determined. We’ve just got to make sure that continues,” Carlisle said. “The challenge is always, when you win a game or two games in a playoff series, how do you measure up against the human nature curve where a lot of teams will have letdowns?”
The Clippers, who led the league with 41% 3-point shooting, went 13 of 33 from long range. They regained their touch in the fourth, when they made five and twice cut their deficit to four points, but Josh Richardson made four straight free throws over the final 21 seconds to preserve the victory.
George was just 1 of 7 from long range. The Clippers made 11 3-pointers in Game 1.
Dallas led by 13 in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Porzingis.
The Clippers cut their deficit to 114-109 on two 3-pointers by Marcus Morris, sandwiched around George’s dunk. But Morris soon fouled out. Doncic scored on consecutive drives and Porzingis dunked with George chasing him for a 120-111 lead.
Leonard made his fourth 3-pointer and Terance Mann scored to draw the Clippers within four, but Hardaway hit from long range.
“When you’re in that zone and you’re in that mindset, and playing against a team like that, those shots are very big and very key,” Hardaway said.
The Mavs dominated the third, outscoring the Clippers 30-19 to take a 101-92 lead into the fourth. They made five 3-pointers, with Hardaway hitting one to open the quarter and Doncic hitting one to end it. In between, the Clippers missed shots, including George’s miss on a wide-open dunk. George and Morris picked up their third fouls.
Just like in Game 1, the Mavs got off to a strong start. They led by nine on their way to hitting five 3-pointers in the first, when they made 15 of 24 shots.
Leonard carried the Clippers in the first half with 30 points, the most he’s scored in either half of a postseason game.
“In the first half, he was doing anything he wanted. We had some loose offensive possessions and they were just running it down our throats and driving it through us,” Carlisle said. “The coaching staff challenged the team to make a stand defensively.”
The teams were tied nine times in the second quarter, with Rajon Rondo’s basket giving the Clippers a 73-71 lead at halftime.
Mavericks: Doncic’s 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 1 made him the first player in NBA history with three triple-doubles in his first seven career playoff games.
Clippers: Leonard’s 18 points in the first were his most in a quarter in the postseason. … Their 73 points was the second-most scored in the first half of a postseason game in franchise history. … Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, a Texas native, talked with Hall of Famer Jerry West at halftime. Doncic ran over to trade greetings with Mahomes as the crowd heckled him.
Porzingis was fined $50,000 for violating the league’s COVID-19 rule banning players from entering nightclubs or similar businesses. It said he was at a club Sunday, a day after the Mavericks’ 113-103 win in Game 1. “I was honestly a little bit confused with the protocols and made a mistake, and I paid for it,” Porzingis said. The NBA said the violation by Porzingis didn’t create risks related to the spread of the virus and a quarantine wasn’t necessary. The rule bars players from entering nightclubs regardless of their vaccination status.
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