LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Marcus Morris added 23 and the Los Angeles Clippers finally won at home, finishing off the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series.
Playing in front of a small but noisy mix of masked fans and cardboard cutouts, the Clippers did what neither team had been able to pull off in the first six games — win at home. It was the first time in NBA history the road team won the first six games of a playoff series.
They became the fifth team in league history to lose the first two games at home and come back to win a playoff series.
“It was a great win for us,” said Tyronn Lue, who improved to 4-0 in Game 7s of his coaching career. “It showed a lot about our team.”
The fourth-seeded Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll play the top-seeded Utah Jazz starting Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
Luka Doncic had 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Mavs, who have yet to win a playoff series since capturing the NBA championship in 2011. He finished the series with 250 points, 55 rebounds and 72 assists.
Paul George added 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Clippers. Their backups outscored Dallas’ reserves, 27-6, getting crucial contributions from Terance Mann (13 points) and Luke Kennard (11 points). Kennard had played just four minutes earlier in the series.
“They trusted me,” Kennard said. “We trusted each other.”
Trailing by eight at halftime, the Mavs outscored the Clippers 19-6 to open the third and take an 81-76 lead. Doncic had just two points in the run, with Dorian Finney-Smith hitting two 3-pointers and Tim Hardaway Jr. adding another. Finney-Smith finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mavs won the first two games at Staples Center before the Clippers tied it up with two wins in Dallas. The Mavs won Game 5 in LA and Leonard powered the Clippers to a road win in Game 6 with a huge fourth quarter.
“We all feel like we should have won the series,” Finney-Smith said. “If anybody come in and say they don’t feel like we should have won, they’re crazy. We just couldn’t win at home.”
The Clippers responded with a 24-4 spurt — including 12 in a row — to lead 100-85 going into the fourth. Morris made three 3-pointers and Kennard hit a pair. Leonard scored seven points, highlighted by a dunk off George’s pass. Defensively, Leonard came up with a big block and Mann helped contain Doncic, who had the Mavs’ only points over the end of the third.
“Kawhi came with the mentality that he’s going to take this game,” said Reggie Jackson, who added 15 points. “He wasn’t going to be shy about his play at all. Once he got going early, defenses had to change.”
Dallas cut its 19-point deficit early in the fourth to seven points on Doncic’s fifth 3-pointer of the game with just under 3 minutes remaining. But the Clippers’ own long-range prowess carried them, with Jackson and Morris connecting on back-to-back 3s for a 120-107 lead.
Doncic matched his points total from Game 6 with 29 points in the first half on 10 of 14 shooting.
The Clippers produced a 19-13 run, with four players other than Leonard scoring, to go into halftime leading 70-62.
Leonard is the fourth player in postseason history to have at least 200 total points while shooting at least 60% from the floor in a single series. The last player to do so was Shaquille O’Neal of the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.
Mavericks: Hardaway received a Flagrant-1 foul for knocking George to the floor on a drive with 37 seconds left. … Rick Carlisle dropped to 2-2 in Game 7s of his coaching career.
Clippers: Lue has won his first four Game 7s as a coach. Boston’s Red Auerbach won his first eight. … They had one rebound in the first quarter. … Markieff Morris of the Lakers chatted up his twin brother Marcus at halftime. … Six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen and Chiney Ogwumike of the Sparks attended.