With their superstar Luka Doncic battling a sprained left ankle, the Mavericks entered Game 4 of their first round series with the Clippers down 2-1. Doncic’s injury had him listed as a gametime decision.
Doncic would be cleared to play, but it looked like the Mavs playoff hopes might end up being squashed on Sunday afternoon as they saw their other young star, Kristaps Porzingis, end up as a late scratch with knee soreness.
The Clippers ran out to a 21-point lead in the mid-second quarter and there seemed to be little in the way of hope for the Mavs. Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams led the way for the L.A. offense, as Williams exploded for his best performance of the Bubble, a positive sign for a team that could use his on-ball creation.
However, the Mavs crept back into the game, closing the shortfall to just eight at the half and then came out on a slit in the third quarter, led by Doncic, to take an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter. However, down the stretch it was Leonard and Williams who pulled the Clippers back into the game to force overtime, where L.A. took a late 133-132 lead after Leonard found Marcus Morris Sr. in the corner for the go-ahead bucket with nine seconds to play.
But this was a game where Doncic was not going to be denied, as the Slovenian superstar had 43 points, 17 rebounds, and 13 assists. His final act was one of sheer brilliance, as he took the inbound on the Mavs final possession, got to his spot deep on the left wing, and drilled a stepback game-winner between the eyes of Reggie Jackson to give Dallas a 135-133 victory and even the series at 2-2.
Doncic’s performance all night was sublime, as he kept Dallas ahead late in the fourth quarter with a pair of deep threes, and even played some strong defense on Paul George.
He had a few ridiculous passes, as we’ve come to expect from the young Slovenian superstar, and he went toe to toe with one of the game’s very best in Kawhi Leonard, who, while Paul George remains lost in the wilderness, showed in Game 4 why he’s still so hard to beat. Leonard hit big buckets late in the fourth and to open overtime, while also putting the clamps on Doncic on a couple key late possessions.
On this Sunday evening, it was Doncic’s time to shine as he showed little in the way of ill-effects of his sprained ankle on the court and powered this Mavs team — with some big help from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke — past tremendous outings from Leonard and Williams, who combined for 68 points in the loss.