Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Clippers Live Score and Stats – April 21, 2024 GameTracker

LOS ANGELES (AP) James Harden has spent the season developing pick-and-roll chemistry with big man Ivica Zubac. The future Hall of Famer is studying the longest tenured Clipper in his first season in Los Angeles.

It paid off in the opening game of their playoff series.

Harden scored 28 points in his playoff debut, Zubac had a playoff-career high with 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Los Angeles defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 109-97 on Sunday.

Harden, who, like Paul George, is looking for his first NBA championship, said it's “a perfect game for grown-ups.”

Game 2 is Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

“We're going against some Hall of Famers,” Dallas' Kyrie Irving said. “I don't even know if we're favorites in this series, so we have to focus on what we can control.”

Coach Tyronn Lue called the first play of the game for Zuback, and the Clippers were off to a dominant start.

“When I'm out there, I try to punish them in the post,” said Zubach, in his sixth season. “I want to be the best version of myself for this team.”

Harden hit 6 of 11 3-pointers and had eight assists. George finished with 22 points after the Mavs slowed him down in the first half. The Clippers outscored the Mavs in their own 3-point game, going 18 of 36 from long range to 10 of 33 for Dallas.

“Anytime Joe plays at that level we're going to be really good,” George said.

The Clippers had five players in double figures without Kawhi Leonard. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has not played since March 31 as his right knee underwent surgery to repair it. Russell Westbrook finished with 13 points and fellow reserve guard Norman Powell played 30 minutes.

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“We obviously want Kawhi back when he's ready,” George said. “The only luxury we have is the experience James, myself, Russ, Norm have had in big playoff battles.”

The teams met in the playoffs for the third time in five years, with the Clippers winning the previous two series.

“Their mentality was to be the next man up, and they did very well, very well,” Danczyk said. “We have to concentrate for 48 minutes.”

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

“Luca found the open guy. We didn't shoot well,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “I like the way we played in the second half, and we've got to build on that.”

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

“I don't have a lot of technology and deadly people in my life,” Zubac said. “I don't know how I got both in one play.”

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

“It's really important to start on the right note,” George said. “You must take care of business at home.”

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

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“The second half is how we have to play the whole game, so we have to learn from that,” Dancic said.

The Clippers dominated the first half and led 56-30 at halftime. The Mavs were outscored 22-8 in the second quarter when they made just two field goals, their fewest points allowed in half of a playoff game and their playoff-lowest first half.

“In a playoff game, man, getting eight points feels like forever,” Irving said. “The way we started in the second quarter, we let them feel a lot more comfortable in that first quarter and there was carryover. We had to give. They took credit for hitting the shots and doing the right thing.

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 scored 5 off 19 fifties. Danczyk scored 11 of his runs in the first quarter; Irving scored two of his six points in the second.

Leonard was replaced by Terrence Mann and Amir Coffey to lead the Clippers defense, which held Dallas to 9 of 40 field-goal shooting and 2 of 18 from 3-point range in the half.

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