LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points and had 12 rebounds and Paul George tallied 27 points as the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Dallas Mavericks 118-110 in the opening game of their playoff series. “This is my tenth year in the league and I still get butterflies,” said George. “It took the second half for me to get going but I understood just to let the game flow.” Dallas’s 21-year-old star Luka Doncic scored a game high 40 points to become the first player in NBA history to record a 40-point performance in his playoff debut.
“He is the future,” George of Doncic, who also had nine assists and seven rebounds. “We didn’t expect to stop him but we wanted to wear him down as much as possible.” Marcus Morris had 19 points for the Clippers, who will try to go up 2-0 in game two of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday.
Dallas had to play much of the second half without star player Kristaps Porzingis after he was ejected while trying to intervene in a skirmish between his teammate Doncic and Clippers Morris. Porzingis, who argued the ejection, appeared to give Morris a light push in the chest. It was his second technical of the contest. The Mavericks were leading the series opener 71-66 at the time of the ejection. Porzingis had 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
Also, Jamal Murray scored 36 points, including 10 in overtime, as the Denver Nuggets overcame a 57-point performance from Donovan Mitchell to defeat the Utah Jazz 135-125 in their first round playoff series. Nikola Jokic finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, who were taken to overtime by the Jazz for the second-straight contest. “I’m smiling because those are the games you want to be in,” Murray said. “Those are the games that are the most fun and most competitive.”
Jokic had a chance to ice the victory in regulation, but his hook shot at the buzzer over Utah’s Rudy Gobert failed to drop. Murray seized command in overtime, clinching the outcome with a three-point dagger with 46 seconds on the clock to give the Nuggets a 1-0 lead in their series. Mitchell has a habit of saving his best for the Nuggets, but it wasn’t enough as he was 13-of-13 from the free throw line in scoring a franchise playoff record 57 points.
The previous franchise record for most points in a playoff game was 50 by Karl Malone in 2000. Mitchell’s total was also the third-highest scoring game in NBA playoff history. The teams met four times in the regular season. The last time was August 8, when Mitchell had another huge game, but the Jazz lost that one as well in double overtime. The Nuggets have now won all five games against the Jazz this season.
This is the fifth time the teams have met in the playoffs, and the Jazz have won three of those previous playoff series, most recently a 4-2 win in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. The Jazz were eliminated in the first round by Houston in 2019, but reached the Western Conference semi-finals the previous two playoffs.
Also, Fred VanVleet scored 30 points as the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 134-110 in the opening game of their first-round series. Jayson Tatum scored a playoff-career-high 32 points, Jaylen Brown added 29 and the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 in the opener of their series. Celtics forward Gordon Hayward left the game late in the fourth with an ankle injury. – AFP