Leonard, Clippers advance to 2nd round; Celtics top Raptors
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers knocked him around and shut his teammates down, and still Luka Doncic kept coming.
Kawhi Leonard wasn’t worried, because nothing rattles him in the postseason.
Now his team will keep playing into the second round.
Leonard had 33 points and 14 rebounds and the Clippers eliminated Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks with a 111-97 victory Sunday in Game 6 of the first-round series.
Doncic capped a superb first postseason with 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, keeping it interesting into the fourth quarter even while playing without injured teammate Kristaps Porzingis.
But with Leonard reaching the 30-point mark for his career-best fifth straight playoff game and a strong defensive effort, the Clippers simply had too many answers.
The No. 2 seed in the Western Conference advanced to a second-round meeting with either Denver or Utah. The sixth-seeded Jazz were trying to close that series out in six games later Sunday.
Paul George and Ivica Zubac added 15 points apiece for the Clippers, who turned up their defense in this one after winning Game 5 with the best offensive performance in their postseason history, when they shot 63% and romped to a 154-111 victory.
Perhaps it was too much to ask to be that sharp again after a four-day layoff, but they didn’t need to be even while playing most of the game without starting forward Marcus Morris, who was ejected for a flagrant foul against Doncic in the first quarter.
Leonard also had seven assists and five steals. The Clippers said he was the first player in at least the last 20 postseasons with 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game.
The Mavericks had only two field goals in the first six minutes of the third quarter, both by Doncic, and by the time he made the second the Clippers had opened the half with a 20-3 run that turned a six-point lead into a 77-54 lead.
But Doncic wouldn’t quit, with a 3-pointer and two three-point plays in the final 1:28 to cut it to 85-74.
He made another 3 that trimmed it to 88-82 with 9:27 to play but Dallas couldn’t get any closer. Los Angeles began putting the ball in Leonard’s hands and he delivered with eight straight Clippers points before consecutive 3-pointers by Reggie Jackson pushed it to 105-89.
Dallas was in its first postseason since 2016 but quickly learned about the physicality, mixing it up with Morris on multiple occasions.
The Clippers led by two when Morris was ejected for swinging his arm down and striking a driving Doncic in the head or neck area. The Clippers picked up their defense in the second period, limiting the Mavs to 17 points and 33.3% shooting to open a 57-51 advantage at the break.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Boston Celtics clearly have the formula to create problems for the Toronto Raptors.
Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart each scored 21 points, Kemba Walker added 18 points and 10 assists and the Celtics never trailed on the way to beating the Raptors 112-94 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday.
The Celtics improved to 4-1 against the Raptors this season — no other team has beaten the reigning NBA champions more than twice — and both of their meetings in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World have been one-sided.
Toronto is 0-2 against Boston at Disney, losing by a combined 40 points and not leading for a single moment in those two games. The Raptors are 11-0 at Disney against everybody else.
Jaylen Brown scored 17 points and Daniel Theis finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds for Boston, which is 5-0 in this postseason — though Celtics coach Brad Stevens dismissed any notion that control of the series has been secured.
“We’re not even in the ballpark of doing that yet,” Stevens said. We won one game.”
Kyle Lowry had 17 points for Toronto, which got 15 from Serge Ibaka, 13 from Pascal Siakam on a day where he was slowed big-time by early foul trouble and 12 from OG Anunoby. The Raptors were outscored 51-30 from 3-point range.
Lowry said the toll of the events of recent days and weeks, including the three-day stoppage of play last week in response to the shooting by police in Wisconsin of Jacob Blake, a Black man, is weighing heavily on players.
“Basketball always matters, but in this situation, at this time, it’s taking a backseat,” Lowry said. “Yes, it’s our job and we’re going to go out there and perform at the highest level we can possibly perform at. There’s no excuses, but we have an obligation right now to use our platform. That’s why we’re still here.”
Toronto has lost four games by more than 15 points this season — three of them against Boston. The Celtics won by 22 on Aug. 7, 18 on Sunday and 16 on Christmas Day. The other was a 20-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 11.
The final moments of the second and third quarters gave Boston big lifts.
Toronto had the ball, down by 12, with 32 seconds left in the first half when Tatum intercepted a pass and got loose for a dunk — followed by a stop at the other end and Walker hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 59-42 halftime lead.
Down by 13 late in the third, Toronto couldn’t control a rebound and extended a Boston possession with 3.1 seconds left. Tatum hit a baseline jumper as time expired, and the lead was 88-73 going into the final 12 minutes.
“Tough day for us, right?” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “Nothing was much fun out there today.”
Celtics: Boston has now won seven consecutive Game 1s, the longest such streak for the Celtics since taking 11 consecutive 1-0 series leads between the start of the 1985 playoffs and the 1987 NBA Finals. … Theis had 15 rebounds, total, in the first-round sweep of Philadelphia.
Raptors: Toronto trailed 39-23 after one quarter, the sixth-worst point differential in a span of 547 quarters — including playoffs — played by the Raptors going back to Jan. 16, 2019. … The Raptors have lost Game 1 in 14 of their last 18 series.
No Raptors starter reached double digits in scoring until 1:26 remained in the third quarter. By then, four Celtics starters were in double figures and the fifth — Theis — was already up to 14 rebounds.
As was the case Saturday, the NBA paid pregame tribute to the recent deaths of former player Clifford Robinson, Hall of Fame coach Lute Olsen and beloved actor Chadwick Boseman with a pregame moment of silence. The Raptors and Celtics knelt for that moment and the playings of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” that immediately followed. The tribute and anthems took just over four minutes. “It was very sad to see him leave us so early,” Ibaka said of Boseman.
Game 2 is Tuesday.