NBA

Clippers feel good about Leonard return despite loss to Mavericks

By Sports Desk April 24, 2024

The return of Kawhi Leonard was enough to ensure there was positivity from the Los Angeles Clippers despite their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic had 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds and the Mavs secured a 96-93 win to even their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and PJ Washington had 18 for the Mavericks, who take the series back to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday.

Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes in his first game since March 31. He had not played or engaged in any contact practices during that stretch because of inflammation in his surgically repaired knee.

He shot 7-of-17 but missed all five of his 3-point attempts as the Clippers fell short, but his return to action still came as a significant boost.

"Kawhi is one of the best in the world," said Paul George, per ESPN. 

"He is going to find his rhythm. We are going to find our rhythm around him. We feel good about it."

George and James Harden each scored 22 points and Ivica Zubac added 13 with 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shot 36.8 per cent (32 for 87) from the field and missed 22 of 30 from long range.

The Clippers were ahead 73-67 with 9:32 remaining but the Mavs scored 14 straight points for an 81-73 lead. They did not relinquish the advantage from there.

"Just keep trying to get a rhythm back and obviously try to win a basketball game," Leonard said about his return. 

"We got pretty stagnant in that fourth quarter. I want to just be able to get a rhythm with the team and get a win.

"It has just been about being able to get on the floor and shoot consistent days and being able to run the last few weeks.

"I haven't been on the floor, so the last couple days it felt great and I was able to play.

"This is my first game in 20-something days. We got to be better as a unit overall and it starts with me. And even if my wind is low, I got to find a way."

Related items

  • NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals

    P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining and the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 117-116 victory over the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to reach the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

    With the Thunder ahead 116-115 after Chet Holmgren’s dunk, Washington pump-faked to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the air and the whistle blew as his shot fell short.

    After the Thunder’s challenge was unsuccessful, Washington made the first two free throws before intentionally missing the third. Jalen Williams’ desperation heave at the buzzer wasn’t close.

    Luka Dončić had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple-double and Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each added 22 points for Dallas, which rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

    The Mavericks will face the winner of the Minnesota-Denver series with that headed to Game 7 on Sunday.

    Gilgeous-Alexander had 36 points and Williams finished with 22, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Thunder lost four of five games following a 5-0 start to the playoffs.

    Holmgren’s dunk with 8:26 left in the third extended the Thunder’s lead to 77-60, but Doncic and Irving combined for the next 13 points to make it 77-73.

    The final sequence capped a fourth quarter that had five lead changes and two ties in the final five minutes.

    Irving improved to 14-0 in closeout games in his career and had a 3-pointer to get Dallas within two midway through the fourth, the closest it had been since the second quarter. 

  • New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon' New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon'

    Mike Budenholzer admitted he would coach the Phoenix Suns, even if the team "was on the moon".

    The two-time NBA Coach of the Year, who guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the title in 2021, was named Frank Vogel's successor at Footprint Center last week.

    Arizona-born Budenholzer returns to his hometown after taking the 2023-24 season out, having previously enjoyed five-year stints with the Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

    The 54-year-old has only missed out on the postseason once in his 10 previous NBA campaign, guiding his teams to six division titles and entering the playoffs as top seeds on four occasions.

    Budenholzer now hopes to achieve something similar with the Suns, who endured a disappointing season under Vogel, which culminated in a 4-0 first-round series defeat by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    "It's mind-boggling to me, like mind-blowing, to think that I'm going to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns," he told reporters during his introductory news conference.

    "I'm excited about working with this roster and these players. We have great players and, with great players, comes great expectations. I think we embrace that.

    "The biggest message I want you to hear is that I would coach this team if it was on the moon. I would coach this team if it was in Alaska, if these players were in Denmark. I would go anywhere to coach this team."

  • 'We played harder' – Carlisle proud of Pacers' efforts after Indiana force Game 7 'We played harder' – Carlisle proud of Pacers' efforts after Indiana force Game 7

    Rick Carlisle hailed the efforts of his Indiana Pacers players after they forced their playoff series with the New York Knicks to Game 7.

    Carlisle challenged his players directly in the wake of their loss in Game 5, which put them 3-2 down in the series.

    And the Pacers responded with a fine display in a 116-103 victory, which sees the series go down to the wire, with Game 7 set for Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

    "It was just activity. We played harder tonight, which was a must," Carlisle said.

    "We moved the ball better and we got more rebounds, and that's obviously a big key to the series.

    "We gotta brace for Sunday. And we must be ready."

    Tyrese Haliburton had 15 points and nine assists for the Pacers, and said: "Coaches challenged our effort, I think that was the biggest thing.

    "We had some boneheaded things happen [in Game 5].

    "He [Carlisle] just really challenged our group [players] 1-15 on how can we be better."

    Jalen Brunson finished with 31 points for the Knicks, but he was not overly impressed by his own performance. 

    "They try to make things difficult," Brunson said. "And I have to adjust as well. Show me different looks and I have to do a better job of reading it."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.