The Los Angeles Clippers snapped a six-game losing streak Tuesday night behind a season-high 33 points from Kawhi Leonard in a 113-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Luka Doncic had 43 points in the loss, but Leonard’s vintage performance was too much to overcome.
Playing in only his 19th game this season after missing all last season due to a knee injury, the 31-year-old Leonard got off to a quick start with 11 points in the first quarter as the Clippers led throughout.
Doncic, who sat out Sunday against Oklahoma City due to left ankle soreness, missed four of his first five shots and had 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first half as he faced constant double-teams.
Dallas’ first-half defense was dismal, allowing 53% shooting en route to a 69-47 halftime deficit.
The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 23 points and lost starting center Dwight Powell to a right hip contusion, but they rallied furiously in the second half behind Doncic, who erupted for 11 points in the third quarter and 20 more in the fourth.
Leonard responded twice when Dallas got close.
The Mavericks got within 104-96 on a Doncic three-pointer with 2:50 remaining, but Leonard answered with a three of his own after grabbing an offensive rebound to push the margin back to double digits.
“We had to box out but we were small trying to get the rebounds on loose balls. That was a big miss but Kawhi was in the right place at the right time and made the three,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said.
Doncic responded with another shot from the perimeter before Leonard was fouled on a three-point attempt from the corner. Leonard hit all three free throws to make it 110-99 with 1:40 remaining.
WHAT TO KNOW
This was the 23rd time Doncic has scored 42 or more points in a regular-season or playoff game. Nine of those times have been against the Clippers.
Doncic also had 11 rebounds for his ninth double-double against Los Angeles.
Still, Doncic’s hot shooting and Dallas’ improved second-half defense (35% Clippers shooting) were not enough to complete the comeback.
The Mavericks (23-19) have started this five-game road trip with losses to Oklahoma City and the Clippers.
Dallas is fourth in the West, but its 7-13 road record is a concern.
The Mavericks could be about to get Josh Green back from a month’s absence as soon as Thursday, and Dorian Finney-Smith (adductor strain) could return within the next week.
The six-game losing streak entering the game for the Clippers (22-21) was the franchise’s longest since November 2017.
BY THE NUMBERS
It’s the fourth time in the past five games Leonard has scored at least 24. Norman Powell added 27 as the Clippers were playing without All-Star Paul George.
After winning the third quarter 31-19, the Mavericks were down just 10 heading to the fourth.
They had a chance until they opened the fourth completely flat, missing five straight shots and letting Los Angeles build the lead back to 16 over about two and a half minutes.
Dallas is an awful rebounding team, getting the lowest volume per game (39) and 28th in the league in terms of percentage, grabbing 47.9% of available boards.
The Clippers took advantage of the Mavericks’ weakness, scoring 20 second-chance points.
Doncic downplayed his 43 point-night in a losing effort.
“We lost to them, I don’t know if it was a big night,” Doncic said. “We played good defense in the second half but it wasn’t there in the first.”
With Powell injured after playing only eight minutes, Dallas played long stretches of the second half with Davis Bertans at center.
“We’re just running out of bodies,” Kidd said. “We’re playing everybody we can — and then on top of that we’re running everyone else’s minutes up.”
Dallas will stay in Los Angeles for a Thursday game against the Lakers, followed by back-to-back games in Portland to close the road trip.