National Basketball Association
James Harden leads Clippers, without Kawhi Leonard, over Mavericks in playoff opener
National Basketball Association

James Harden leads Clippers, without Kawhi Leonard, over Mavericks in playoff opener

Updated Apr. 21, 2024 7:38 p.m. ET

James Harden scored 28 points, Ivica Zubac had a double-double and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 109-97 to win their playoff series opener on Sunday.

Harden hit 6 of 11 3-pointers and had eight assists. Zubac's 20 points were a playoff career high to go with 15 rebounds. Paul George added 22 points. The Clippers outdid the Mavs at their own 3-point game, making 18 of 36 from long range to 10 of 33 for Dallas.

The Clippers had five players in double figures without Kawhi Leonard. The two-time NBA Finals MVP hasn't played since March 31 because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee.

The teams were meeting in the playoffs for the third time in five years, with the Clippers having won both previous series.


Doncic led the Mavs with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Kyrie Irving had 31 points and seven rebounds, but the Mavs got little from their supporting cast.

Trailing by 22, the Mavs outscored the Clippers 10-2 to close to 102-88. Dallas was helped by a technical on Zubac and a flagrant-1 foul for his subsequent actions after a second free throw attempt by Doncic. In all, it cost the Clippers four points after Doncic scored when the Mavs retained possession.

But Harden hit another 3-pointer, George scored four in a row and the Clippers closed out the win.

The Mavs revived themselves in the third, when Doncic and Irving (20 points) combined for 29 of their 34 points. But they still trailed 87-64 going into the fourth. George's 3-pointer put the Clippers ahead by 29, their largest lead.

The Clippers dominated the first half, leading 56-30 at the break. It was the fewest points they've allowed in either half of a playoff game and a first-half playoff low for the Mavs, who were outscored 22-8 in the second quarter when they made just two field goals.

Harden scored 20 points in the half, including nine in a row in the second quarter. He made his first four 3s.

Doncic and Irving were a combined 5 of 19 from the floor in the half. Doncic had all of his 11 in the first quarter; Irving had two of his six points in the second.

Terance Mann and Amir Coffey, who started in place of Leonard, led the Clippers' defense that held Dallas to 9 of 40 field-goal shooting and 2 of 18 from 3-point range in the half.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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