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Paul George and the Clippers Even Series With Mavs at 2-2 After Blowing 31-Point Lead
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By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
April 29, 2024

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George gestures to the crowd after shooting a 3-point basket during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dallas. (AP/Jeffrey McWhorter)

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DALLAS — Paul George and James Harden are two-for-two without Kawhi Leonard in the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round playoff series against Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving and the Dallas Mavericks.

The healthy LA stars can afford to shrug over the blown 31-point lead in Game 4.

George and Harden each scored 33 points while playing key fourth-quarter roles to help the Clippers hold off a huge rally fueled mostly by Irving for a 116-111 victory Sunday to even the first-round series at 2-2.

“We knew they would make a run,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “But also, we didn’t think we’d come into this building and be up 31 points either. So I told our team, just get the win, however you’ve got to get it. In the playoffs, it don’t matter how you win.”

Leonard was out with right knee inflammation again after missing the series opener, then playing in both Dallas victories. The Clippers aren’t sure he’ll make it back for the third Western Conference first-round meeting between these teams in the past five seasons.

The teams have split a pair on each other’s home court. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Mavericks’ Performance

Irving scored 40 points for Dallas, including an acrobatic layup with 2:15 remaining for a 105-104 lead that was the first for the Mavericks since the middle of the first quarter.

Doncic had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his fourth career playoff triple-double — all against the Clippers — while clearly struggling with right knee soreness that had him questionable until he warmed up before the game.

“It’s hurting, obviously,” said Doncic, who was 1 of 9 from 3-point range and not as effective on defense, a strength for him in this series. “But it shouldn’t be an excuse. Just came out sloppy. We’ve got to be way better than that.”

Clippers’ Performance

George scored 26 points in the first half, when the Clippers’ lead reached 55-24 on a 3-pointer by Harden. The high-scoring stars combined to go 11 of 15 from long range as LA finished 18 of 29 overall.

After Irving’s go-ahead layup, George hit his first basket of the second half, a fadeaway 3 from the corner. Irving missed a layup, and Harden converted a three-point play for a 110-105 lead. The 10-time All-Star scored 15 points in the fourth, hitting five of his well-known floaters that were mostly absent in the first three games.

This is part of why the Clippers added Harden in an early-season trade, giving them another option with a star such as Leonard sidelined.

“I’m blessed to be able to change it up and be a facilitator or a scorer,” Harden said. “My mindset coming to this team was doing whatever it takes to win and get to the end goal. Whether that’s scoring or facilitating, I think it goes possession by possession and game by game.”

The Clippers tied a franchise playoff record for a quarter with eight 3s in the first, and George had three of them while scoring his playoff first-quarter high with 16 points to match the Mavericks and help build a 39-16 lead.

Harden’s 3 for the 31-point lead midway through the second quarter came not long after Doncic was called for a technical foul coming down the court when his miss dropped Dallas to 0-11 from long range..

It was almost a replay of Game 1, when the Leonard-less Clippers led by 26 at halftime and 29 early in the third quarter. Minus the massive rally, although Dallas did whittle the deficit in the second half of the opener.

“This is like Game 1,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “Early game, for whatever reason we just haven’t played well. We’ve gotten off to slow starts. That’s just something that we’ve got to talk about as a team. If there’s another afternoon game, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go from the jump and we can’t wait.”

Irving hit the next two 3s for Dallas, and the rally was on. He scored 16 in the second quarter and kept it going in the third, finishing those two quarters with 26 after a scoreless first. Dallas trailed by four entering the fourth quarter.

“We dug ourselves in a hole,” Irving said. “There’s no time to complain about it or look to each other for any excuses. It was just time to get it going. Fell short, but this is a consistent thing in this series so far where Kawhi doesn’t play and we’re just dealing with a barrage of James Harden and Paul George getting off.”

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