Same old Los Angeles Clippers?
After regaining momentum in their first-round series and returning home to Staples Center with a chance to take control, the Clippers flopped again Wednesday. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks held on for a 105-100 win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead back home for a potential closeout.
The Clippers are now staring at another disappointing playoff exit. Despite bouts of disjointed chemistry and listless play, they've been considered a top contender for the NBA championship all season thanks largely to the presence of superstar wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Both have played well in spurts during the series, but the Clippers have had no answer for Doncic, with Leonard and George among the Clippers defenders who have tried to slow the Mavericks star.
Kawhi Leonard is looking ahead to a crucial game 6 for the @LAClippers#ClipperNationpic.twitter.com/G9XiSY30Uh
Leonard has been the Clippers' leading scorer in the series, but he had his lowest output and worst shooting game Wednesday with 20 points on 7-of-19 from the field.
"We had to ask Kawhi to do a lot and Kawhi got a little tired," said Clippers coach Ty Lue. "We had some turnovers and then we couldn't score the ball like we needed to."
A first-round exit would be disappointing in most years for this Clippers team, given the expectations. It would be a disaster this year after collapsing and blowing a 3-1 series lead in the second round last season. The Clippers also lost their final two games of the regular season in a move many saw as a way to avoid the Lakers in the early rounds of the playoffs.
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The pressure is sky-high for the Clippers in an elimination game. They made a big coaching change last offseason and retooled the roster to avoid this very situation. Another early exit could prompt more big changes.
"We're definitely disappointed in the loss, but we have confidence in ourselves to go out and get another win," Leonard said. "We've just focused on the next one, and we're going to see what we can do better."
State of the series: Mavericks lead 3-2. Game 6 is Friday in Dallas (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Kawhi Leonard had his lowest scoring outing of the series in the Clippers' Game 5 loss. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)
Sixers 129, Wizards 112
The top-seeded Sixers took care of business and finished off the Wizards without star center and leading scorer Joel Embiid, who missed the game after being diagnosed with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. Seth Curry scored 30 points and Tobias Harris had 28 to pick up the slack for the Sixers, who handled a Wizards team that was largely overmatched even with Embiid sidelined. Ben Simmons had a triple-double with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. However, the main focus moving forward is Embiid's status for the second round ahead of Game 1 on Sunday.
State of the series: Sixers win 4-1.
🔔 30 PTS for @sdotcurry (#NBAPlayoffs career-high)
🔔 28 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST for @tobias31
🔔 The @sixers advance to the East Semis vs. ATL, with Game 1 Sunday. pic.twitter.com/rgXt9x1Lmh
Hawks 103, Knicks 89
Trae Young and the Hawks made sure the Knicks' return to the playoffs was brief, closing out the series with another convincing win at Madison Square Garden. Young finished off a dominant series with 36 points and nine assists, continuing his breakout star turn in his first playoffs. The third-year All-Star averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists in the series to lead the Hawks to the second round for the first time since 2016. The Knicks ended a resurgent season in which they snapped an eight-year playoff drought and renewed hope for a consistent winner in New York.
State of the series: Hawks win 4-1.
🧊🧊🧊 Trae drops his #NBAPlayoffs career-high 36 PTS to go with 9 AST, leading the @ATLHawks to the East Semis!
They’ll face PHI, with Game 1 Sunday. pic.twitter.com/3DmbdMHqg6
Jazz 126, Grizzlies 110
The Jazz showed their loss in the series opener was just a blip on the radar by winning their fourth straight to eliminate the upstart Grizzlies. Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-8 from deep, as Utah shot 51.6% from the field overall and hit 17 3-pointers. The victory came with a big asterisk though when starting point guard Mike Conley left the game early in the second quarter with a sore right hamstring and did not return. Ja Morant had 27 points and 11 assists to cap a breakout performance in his first career playoff series for Memphis.
State of the series: Jazz win 4-1.
Donovan & Rudy DOMINATE.. @utahjazz advance to West Semis! 🎷@spidadmitchell: 30 PTS, 10 [email protected]: 23 PTS, 15 REB, 3 BLK pic.twitter.com/tKcfruKQ8E
Here's where the rest of the first-round series stand entering Thursday.
Nuggets vs. Blazers
What does Damian Lillard have in store after his historic 55-point outing in Game 5? With the Blazers facing elimination, anything seems possible from Lillard. But as incredible as Lillard has been, Portland needs more from the supporting cast to force a decisive Game 7 back in Denver. While Lillard is averaging 35.6 points per game in the series, MVP favorite Nikola Jokic has been just as good for the Nuggets, scoring 32.4 points per game on 52.2% shooting from the field.
State of the series: Nuggets lead 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Portland (8 p.m. ET, TNT).
Suns vs. Lakers
The upstart Suns have the defending champs on the ropes after Anthony Davis missed Game 5 with a strained groin and the Lakers fell apart without him. Davis is expected to be a game-time decision as L.A. tries to avoid elimination. LeBron James said he's prepared to carry the Lakers if Davis can't go in Game 6, but Phoenix will make him work for everything. The Suns' chances of closing out the series will largely hinge on how effective Chris Paul can be as he plays through a shoulder injury.
State of the series: Suns lead 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
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