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Luka Doncic leads Mavericks past Clippers in Game 1: ‘I forgot how much it’s fun to play in the playoffs’

Luka Doncic in Mavericks-Clippers Game 1

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 22: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks smiles during Round 1, Game 1 of the the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Luka Doncic got slapped across the eyes by Mavericks teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., who might have slightly missed his mark on an affectionate pat, as they celebrated Dallas’ 113-103 Game 1 win over the Clippers. Doncic didn’t flinch. He just continued on to embrace another teammate.

Nothing fazed Doncic on Saturday.

He had 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the impressive road victory. The Mavericks outscored the Clippers by 19 in his 41 minutes (and got outscored by nine in the other seven minutes).

“I forgot how much it’s fun to play in the playoffs,” Doncic said on ESPN.

Doncic had multiple big moments in last year’s Mavericks-Clippers first-round series. This was another masterpiece for the 22-year-old.

Unlike last year, when they lost in six, the Mavericks have a series lead.

The Clippers should still be favored to win the series, but it looks more like a tossup now. Teams that won Game 1 of a best-of-seven series on the road have won the series 52% of the time.

Kawhi Leonard (26 points, 10 rebounds and five steals) briefly stole the show with a steal then forceful dunk on Maxi Kleber in the third quarter:

Paul George (23 points, six rebounds and five assists) stepped up after a slow start. The Clippers fell behind by 12 within the first seven minutes. After everything that happened last year, George at least held off some detractors by helping L.A. get back into the game.

But the Mavericks didn’t wilt.

Led by Hardaway (21 points) and Dorian Finney-Smith (18 points), Dallas’ supporting cast converted the open looks created by Doncic. Other Mavericks shot 12-for-25 on 3-pointers (48%).

Perhaps, that efficiency won’t continue the rest of the series. But after a double-digit win, Dallas has room to regress and still come out ahead.

This series looks more interesting than initially expected.