Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Clippers demonstrated their depth and resilience by securing a solid 109-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the opening game of their playoff series. James Harden, reviving memories of his MVP days, spearheaded the Clippers’ effort with a standout 28-point performance that featured a flawless start from beyond the arc.

The Clippers’ defense was particularly instrumental, stifling the Mavericks to a mere 30 points in the first half and limiting them to an abysmal 22.5% shooting. This defensive prowess set a new low for Dallas, marking their lowest point total in a playoff game since 2019. Harden, along with Ivica Zubac, outscored the entire Mavericks team in the first half, highlighting their offensive dominance even in Leonard’s absence.

Despite a brief spurt from Dallas in the third quarter, the damage had already been done. The Mavericks’ early struggles proved insurmountable as they entered the second half trailing by 26 points. Dallas’ stars, Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić, rallied late in the game, combining for significant scoring in the third quarter, but the Clippers maintained control, never letting the lead slip into single digits.

James Harden was particularly impressive, not only scoring efficiently but also showcasing his vision with significant assists, including a highlight backdoor alley-oop to Russell Westbrook. His ability to take over the game underscored his continued impact, despite a quieter regular season.

As the series progresses, the Clippers appear well-positioned to continue their strong play without rushing Leonard back from his knee injury. Their collective performance suggests they are a formidable contender even without their star forward, as they look ahead to maintaining their momentum in Game 2.



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