LOS ANGELES — No chest-thumping, shouting or theatrics. With very little change of expression, Kawhi Leonard altered the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff fortunes.
Leonard narrowly missed a triple-double, finishing with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, to help the Clippers finish off the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round series.
“It’s all about the moment,” Leonard said. “You got to be aggressive all night and don’t try to make the game be perfect.”
Playing in front of a noisy mix of 7,342 masked fans and cardboard cutouts, the Clippers did what neither team had been able to pull off in the first six games — win at home. It was the first time in NBA history the road team won the first six games of a playoff series.
“We saw everything in this series,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Clippers became the fifth team in league history to lose the first two games at home and come back to win a playoff series.
“It was a great win for us,” said Tyronn Lue, who improved to 4-0 in Game 7s of his coaching career. “It showed a lot about our team.”
The fourth-seeded Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll play the top-seeded Utah Jazz starting Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
“We showed great resilience,” said Paul George, who scored 22 points. “They pushed us. They definitely got us war-ready. We hung in there, we played for one another, we played hard.”
Luka Doncic had 46 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Mavs, who have yet to win a playoff series since capturing the NBA championship in 2011. He finished the series with 250 points, 55 rebounds and 72 assists.
“Game seven is the toughest game. You’ve got to give it everything,” Doncic said. “We’ve been in the playoffs twice since I’ve been there, lost both times. You get paid to win.”
George added 10 assists and six rebounds for the Clippers. Their backups outscored Dallas’ reserves, 27-6, getting crucial contributions from Terance Mann (13 points) and Luke Kennard (11 points). Kennard had played just four minutes earlier in the series.
“They trusted me,” Kennard said. “We trusted each other.”
The Clippers were the league’s top 3-point shooting team during the regular season, but struggled at times in the series. They regained their touch in Game 7, making 20 3s, led by Morris’ seven. The Mavs hit 10, with Doncic having five.
HAWKS EDGE 76ERS
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Trae Young put an early smackdown on Philly that had the Hawks in control of Game 1 and finished the win with a lob to John Collins for a one-handed jam.
Collins punched the air in celebration — and the Hawks took a moment to exhale after a hefty lead was nearly squandered.
“Thank God we were up 20,” Hawks guard Kevin Huerter said.
Young scored 25 of his 35 points in the first half as Atlanta shook off Joel Embiid and a hostile crowd and held on to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 128-124 Sunday in their Eastern Conference semifinal opener.
“The confidence in all these guys is high,” Young said. “We’re out here playing for each other. Out here having fun. Everyone’s locked in.”
Embiid raised a sledgehammer as he returned from a one-game absence with a cartilage tear in his right knee. He walked out with WWE star Triple H to a roaring ovation.
Young and the Hawks had the Sixers down for the count from the jump and led by 26 points.
The Sixers — playing in front of their biggest crowd of the season at 18,624 — refused to easily cede home court and Embiid scored consecutive baskets that brought them within three with 1:01 left.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, who missed all three games in the season series against the 76ers with a knee injury, steadied the Hawks when he buried a 3 that gave them needed breathing room.
He even put his fingers to his lips and shushed the raucous crowd for good measure.
“He’s a big shot maker,” Huerter said.