For the first few minutes of Tuesday night’s contest, it looked like the Clippers were still in the malaise that afflicted them for much of the previous game.
That didn’t last long.
Down 16-9 to a Dallas team still missing Kristaps Porzingis, the Clippers quickly turned things around with a 19-0 run. Kawhi Leonard was the catalyst, scoring 11 points and providing one monster slam. He scored 15 points in the first quarter as the Clippers built a 19-point lead, one that eventually ballooned to 33 and never fell below double digits again in a 154-111 win.
It wasn’t just Leonard — the entire team showed a renewed focus and intensity after a brief blip to start the game. Firstly, the Clippers increased their defensive pressure on Luka Doncic. They trapped him with more frequency and sent several bodies his way on drives. They frustrated him into 6-of-17 shooting and five turnovers in his 31 minutes. It finally looked like Doncic’s bum ankle was causing him some difficulty, but the majority of the credit goes to LA’s inspired defensive effort.
Meanwhile, the Clippers found offense everywhere they looked. Paul George made more field goals in game 4 than he did in the previous three games. knocking down 12-of-18 shots and half of his eight 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 35 points. Aside from just hitting his jumper, George was more confident in searching for his own offense. He took six shots in the paint, including four directly at the basket, and earned seven free throws. This is the version of George the Clippers will need not just to win this series, but to move further in the playoffs.
Montrezl Harrell also looked better than he has at any point in the bubble. Doc Rivers said that game 3 felt like the first time Harrell played at his preferred speed, but his energy was finally present in game 5. Even going up against Boban Marjanovic, a matchup that has been difficult for the Clippers center thus far, Harrell held his own. He scored 19 points and added a playoff career-high 11 rebounds, even hitting a three late in the shot clock to give the team its 16th three, a franchise record that was eventually extended to 22. But perhaps no single play was as indicative of Harrell’s night as when he blocked a Seth Curry shot and took the ball coast-to-coast for an and-one.
The game was essentially in hand in the third quarter, and tempers flared up as a result. Doncic and Ivica Zubac each earned technical fouls, Marcus Morris Sr. and Tim Hardaway Jr. were assessed with double technicals, and Rick Carlisle was even ejected for arguing how long the Clippers were given to challenge a George foul call. It may be relevant that the lead official Kane Fitzgerald also worked the first game of this series.
But the story of the game was the Clippers taking control, asserting themselves as the best team in this series and leaving no doubt about the outcome. They scored at least 35 points in each quarter, held Dallas to its lowest point total of the series, and changed the momentum of the matchup heading into a closeout game Thursday.