The Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of their first-round NBA playoff series on Sunday, as LA came back from a two-games-to-none series deficit to advance to the conference semifinals. And as amazing as Luka Doncic was for the losing side, it was Kawhi Leonard who ultimately proved to be the difference.
Leonard averaged a team-high 32.1 points per game in the series and was remarkably efficient. His effective field goal percentage (.675) now stands as the second-highest mark for a player who averaged at least 30.0 points per game in a playoff series in the last 55 years.
The only player to post a superior effective field goal percentage in a series over that span? Why, none other than Steph Curry, of course.
Ironically, Curry accomplished the feat against Leonard. Well, sort of.
The Warriors swept Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs in the 2016-17 Western Conference finals, but as you'll recall, he sustained a serious leg injury in Game 1 after landing on Zaza Pachulia's foot and never returned. The Spurs led on the scoreboard at the time of Leonard's injury, and while they certainly would have been a much tougher out with Leonard fully healthy for the entire series, in reality, the ultimate outcome would have been the same.
The Warriors would have advanced to the NBA Finals regardless, and Curry's play in the series is a major reason why.
Curry averaged 31.5 points in 34.3 minutes per game in the four-game series on 56.4 percent shooting from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range. That amounted to an effective field goal percentage of 69.9 percent. Golden State won each of the final three games by double digits in continuing one of the most impressive postseason runs in NBA history.
Before sweeping the Spurs, the Warriors had also swept the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz in the first two rounds. Golden State went on to win the first three games of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and if not for a shooting performance for the ages by the Cavs in Game 4, the Warriors might have completed the first 16-0 playoff run in NBA history.
Alas, they had to live with 16-1 and their first of back-to-back titles.