Kawhi Leonard pushes Clippers into the second round in win over Mavericks

On the first possession of the fourth quarter in Sunday’s Game 6, Clippers guard Reggie Jackson watched his three-pointer swish from the corner for a 14-point lead, then twirled in place. Facing the Dallas bench, he waved before running back on defense.

The gesture was wishful thinking.

Within three minutes Dallas, which had already overcome a 21-point deficit earlier in this playoff series, had cut a 23-point hole to just six off a three-pointer by Luka Doncic, who had dominated the second half without having to face the defense of his primary defender, Marcus Morris Sr., had been ejected in the first quarter after raking Doncic across the head.

At times, Doncic had been the best player on the floor in this series, even though it was the first postseason of his NBA career. But he wasn’t the most impactful Sunday, in the eventual 111-97 victory for the Clippers.

That distinction belonged to Kawhi Leonard, who reprised his role as a coldly efficient postseason closer by first pushing the Clippers to their largest lead of the afternoon in the third quarter before rescuing them from collapse 12 minutes later.

Leonard made nine of his 10 shots after halftime to finish with 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five steals for the Clippers, who advance to face the winner of the Utah-Denver series.

Paul George and Ivica Zubac each added 15 points for the Clippers, who shot 48% as a team and held Dallas to 29% shooting on three-pointers. Doncic finished with 38 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.

After Doncic’s three cut the Clippers’ lead to six in the fourth quarter, Leonard scored eight straight points to keep the lead at double digits.

Greif reported from Los Angeles.

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