For the first time in NBA playoff history, the road team has won the first six games of a series as the Clippers defeated the Mavericks 104-97 in Game 6 at American Airlines Center to even up their best-of-seven first-round series at three.
Both teams have won three straight on the road, and Game 7 is Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
The biggest reason we will have a Game 7 is the play of Kawhi Leonard. The two-time NBA Finals MVP led the Clippers with a postseason career-high 46 points on 18-25 shooting, including 5/8 from three-point range. Leonard had 29 points in the second half, including 17 points in the third quarter.
“Like I said, I didn’t want to go home,” Leonard said after the game. “I had to assert myself into the game. My teammates found me. I got some open looks and knocked them down. I just kept going from there. I stayed in trust with my teammates.”
Clippers head coach Ty Lue added on Leonard: “Great players perform in big moments. He was taking the challenge, guarding Luka [Dončić] the whole game. I thought our coverage was great. He played 42 minutes and guarded their best player, who is a hell of a player, for the whole game. That just shows you who Kawhi Leonard is.”
Leonard was a force on Friday night, which Mavs star Luka Doncic, who had 29 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, and a career-high four steals in Game 6, acknowledged after the game.
“He destroyed us,” Doncic said about Leonard. “That’s what it is. He had a hell of a game. That’s what he does. He had a hell of a game.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle added on Leonard: “The fact that he had the energy offensively to hit those shots down the stretch — the majority of which were very difficult — is something to behold.”
It’s win or go home, and Carlisle expects his team to be ready for Game 7.
“So, we’re headed for Game 7,” he said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for our team. I don’t know if any of the guys in our locker room other than maybe [JJ] Redick have been in a Game 7. We’ll be excited, and we’ll be ready.”
Doncic added: “It is Game 7. It doesn’t matter where you are. You have to leave everything on the court. That’s it. It is Game 7.”
Usually, you favor the home team in a Game 7, but clearly, this is not your typical series and based on how this series has played out, maybe you favor the Mavericks. Who knows, but one thing is sure, it’s probably going to be fun.
-Paul George had 20 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks tonight for Los Angeles in Game 6.
-The Mavericks welcomed their largest crowd of the season to American Airlines Center, with 18,324 fans in attendance on Friday night.
-With his father, five-time All-Star Tim Hardaway Sr. in attendance, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 23 points on 9-19 shooting. Hardaway Jr. now has 20+ points in four of the six games in this series.
-Doncic ranks second in the NBA this postseason amongst all scorers with 34.0 ppg, only slightly behind Portland’s Damian Lillard (34.3 ppg).
-Kristaps Porzingis had seven points and five rebounds on Friday night, and despite not being a focal point of the Mavs’ offense, Porzingis is trying to stay positive.
“As you said, I am just trying to make an impact with what I can on the defensive end and helping the team however I can,” he said. “I got decent looks tonight. It is what it is. Sunday is going to be a war, so we have to be prepared.”