DALLAS, TX — Kawhi Leonard turned in one of his best performances in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform in a game where the Clippers needed every ounce of his energy.
Leonard scored 36 points in 36 minutes on Tuesday night and got some key three-pointers from Landry Shamet late in the game to help the Clippers (31-13) hold off the Dallas Mavericks (27-16) 110-107 at the American Airlines Center.
With Paul George missing his 6th straight game due to a left hamstring strain, it was up to the two-time Finals MVP to carry the Clips against another budding playoff contender. Dallas was also prepared to go out guns blazing as they welcomed back Kristaps Porzingis after missing 10 games with right knee soreness.
But despite the return of Porzingis (10 pts, 4-of-17 FG), the Mavericks lost another key piece early in the game. With 2:57 left in the first quarter, center Dwight Powell drove to the basket then stopped and immediately hit the floor writhing in pain. It was announced later in the game that Powell had suffered an Achilles tendon injury and would be out for the remainder of the game. Powell had averaged nearly 13 points a game during Porzingis’ absence.
With Powell gone, the load that forward Luka Doncic had to carry got a little bigger but he never shied away from the extra responsibility. Doncic nearly had another triple-double (36 pts, 10 rebounds, 9 ast) as the Mavericks came back from a 60-49 deficit at halftime to within four (82-78) going into the final frame.
The urgency climbed for the Clippers as they couldn’t afford to give up such a short lead. They managed to get up to a 90-82 lead with a few baskets from Montrezl Harrel and Lou Williams befote Dallas clawed back to tie the game at 90 with little over six minutes left in the game. Doncic made a pair of free throws to give Dallas a small lead, one which they couldn’t protect.
With 2:48 left and the Clippers down by one, Landry Shamet pulled up with the coolest of confidence and drained the go-ahead three-pointer to give the Clippers a 100-98 lead. Shamet would make another three with 1:43 left to cap off an 8-0 run and give Los Angeles a 105-98 lead.
Shamet, who finished with 18 points, was thankful to walk away with the win.
“We just kind of found a way to win,” Shamet said. “We’d loved to keep that lead the whole game, but that’s not how it’s going to be. It’s a long season. We got to find different ways how to win like we did tonight.”
However, Doncic refused to say die as he scored 7 of the last nine points for Dallas to bring them within two at the final buzzer.
With the loss, Dallas broke its four-game winning streak. The Clippers maintained their winning streak, upping it to four straight as they continue to hold on to their second-place standing in the Western Conference. With tonight’s win, they are now 3.5 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Lakers and a half-game ahead of the 30-13 Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers will have no time to enjoy the victory as they fly out for a Wednesday night matchup with the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the 10-34 Atlanta Hawks.