Leonard, Clippers fall in physical Game 3 loss to Dallas

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Mavericks led the Clippers by as many as 21 points as tempers flared on the court.

Playing a roster of ailing players, isn’t ideal for any team in the NBA playoffs. Although the Clippers have found themselves in that situation before, a commanding Dallas Mavericks defense seemed to be the last straw for the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.  

The Clippers had the opportunity to take the first-round series advantage, but instead lost 101-90 in a highly physical game with five technical fouls, a flagrant foul and two ejections.

Star guard Luka Doncic guided the Mavericks to a 2-1 series advantage after missing some of Friday’s game. He limped to the locker room late in the first quarter as the Mavericks trailed, 19-14.

But Doncic returned early in the second quarter with a sense of urgency and helped Dallas capture the lead. His pair of 3-pointers during the Mavericks’ 12-0 run gave them a 37-32 advantage.

After that, Dallas never trailed. They led the Clippers by 13 at halftime and kept pushing that lead until the Mavericks sealed the victory.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game:

Dallas’ defense dominates

In Game 2, the Clippers had their worst shooting performance but still managed to lose Dallas by three points. In Game 3, physicality and turnovers were LA’s downfall.

The Mavericks forced 19 Clippers turnovers, which brought 29 points for Dallas. The Mavs committed nine turnovers in comparison.

Clippers star Paul George also had a rough outing. He was in foul trouble early and finished with seven points in 30 minutes. 

George shot 3 for 11 from the field and 1 for 6 from 3-point range while collecting five fouls.

“I thought this was playoff basketball,” George said. “A couple of them have been touch fouls.

“Defense can be physical. They can be aggressive on me on the other side of it. I pick up quick, cheap ones and it’s frustrating.”

A one-handed block by Dallas’ Daniel Gafford on George’s fourth-quarter dunk attempt was the cherry on top of the Mavericks’ defensive performance.

Westbrook receives 1st playoff ejection

The teams reached a boiling point in the final quarter when a scuffle broke out between Russell Westbrook and some Dallas players. 

Westbrook tangled up with Doncic and slung him around after fouling him. The pair exchanged words before P.J. Washington traded shoves with Westbrook as well. 

Both Washington and Westbrook were issued technical fouls and were ejected from the game. 

“Everyone wants to play well and do well, but we just got to keep our composure no matter how the calls go,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just got to keep your composure. We got to be better down the stretch when it comes to that.”

Westbrook was issued a flagrant 1 foul during the first half for excessive contact with Josh Green. He finished 0 for 7 while finishing with one point.

Leonard still hurting

Clipper nation may have to wait a little longer to see a healthy, playoff-ready Kawhi Leonard. 

The Clippers guard played 25 minutes, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds and four turnovers. At one point, he dangled on the rim for an extended amount of time to save himself from a rough landing. 

Leonard missed LA’s last eight regular-season games with inflammation in his surgically repaired knee. He did not have any contact during his practices before returning for Game 2 of the series. In Leonard’s return, he made 7 of 17 shots and all of his 3-pointers.

“He’s trying to find his way back,” Lue said. “We’re just managing it.

“Just being smart, making sure we do it right by Kawhi and seeing how he feels and just kind of gauge it from there.”

Leonard was in and out of Game 3 frequently, but officially exited with 4:09 left to play while the Clippers were down by 15 points. 

Lue said the team was managing Leonard’s minutes. He also added Leonard would be available for Game 4.

The combat resumes Sunday for Game 4 in Dallas.