When the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 130-122 last Friday, there was a “playoff P” trend on Twitter.
Since nicknamed himself, Paul George made the playoffs for the seventh time in 14 consecutive times, shooting less than 40% from the field. On Friday, he scored 11 points out of 3 of 16 points.
But Los Angeles still controlled most of the last three quarters of the third game. Lou Williams and Montrez Harrell still have some time on the bench. Marcus Morris played an excellent defense before Luka Doncic sprained his left ankle and left. Landry Shamet made the most of his starting lineup to score 18 points.
But the most obvious reason the Clippers rose 2-1 in this first-round series is the same player who quietly controlled the entire 2019 playoffs: Kawhi Leonard.
No matter what happens to which team, Kawhi always looks stable. Almost detached, like his robot changing itself.
PG can’t find the rim? Is Luca injured? Will Kristaps Porzingis (34 points and 13 rebounds) disappear?
There is nothing to distract Kawhi’s attention.
Last Friday, when Shamet began to replace Reggie Jackson, Leonard essentially scored 1 for the Clippers. And it couldn’t be better.
His 36 points are his seventh-highest score in the playoffs. What’s more worth mentioning is that his eight assists are the second-highest assists ever in the playoffs.
This is Kawhi’s clinic. No matter who is on him-Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, you say so. Even in the Mavericks’ trot and consecutive misses by PG, this has brought a sense of security to the Clippers.
To reach the top, Los Angeles almost certainly needs George to play more consistently, just like the guy who finished third in the MVP vote last season. However, Friday is a vivid example of how convenient the two finals MVP and in-depth matches are.
Morris’ trade doesn’t look like a regular-season home run, but he has given the Clippers everything they need for the playoffs.
In addition to his physical defence on Doncic (which was mainly the young All-Star’s 14-point and 4-goal performance), Morris made 5 3-pointers with 4 goals and grabbed 8 rebounds.
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