Los Angeles Clippers defeat Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of NBA playoff series

James Harden scored 28 points and Ivica Zubac set his playoff career high with 20 while adding 15 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers made a statement in Game 1 of a first-round Western Conference series with a 109-97 victory over the visiting Dallas Mavericks.

The No. 4-seed Clippers were playing without star Kawhi Leonard because of knee inflammation, but they had plenty to get past the Mavericks with 22 points from Paul George, while Terance Mann and Russell Westbrook each added 13. Mann had nine rebounds while Harden had eight assists.

"Obvoiously Kawhi puts us well over the top, but we still have more than enough," George said. "The luxury we have is experience with James, myself, Russ; (Norman Powell) has been in big playoff battles. ... We still have experience. We want Kawhi back when he's ready, but I think we still have enough to push forward."

Los Angeles' high-level defense was present from the start, holding Dallas to just eight points in the second quarter and 30 in the first half. The Clippers led by as many as 29 points on multiple occasions in the third quarter.

"Playing without Kawhi, knowing how we had to play, was just huge for us to see," Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said about Leonard missing the final eight games of the regular season. "It was a blessing in disguise a little bit. We all know we need Kawhi but we found a way we had to play."

The Los Angeles Clippers' Russell Westbrook drives past the Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving for a dunk.
The Los Angeles Clippers' Russell Westbrook drives past the Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving for a dunk.

NBA PLAYOFFS: First-round scores, schedule, key stats, who to watch

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 13 rebounds and Kyrie Irving added 31 for the Mavericks. Dallas had an impressive end to the regular season when they won 16 of 18 games before using mainly reserves over the final two games, both defeats, after their playoff seed was determined.

P.J. Washington scored 11 points for Dallas, which shot 22 percent in the first half and a mere 9.5 percent (2 of 21) in the second quarter, when the Clippers turned a 34-22 lead into a 56-30 advantage.

Mavericks center Daniel Gafford played just six minutes in the first half after he rolled his left ankle but returned in the second half. Irving was 1 of 6 from the floor in the first half, while Doncic was 4 of 13. The star duo was 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the opening two quarters.

"We were prepared like (Leonard) would play, obviously, but that shouldn't change our mentality," Doncic said. "Their mentality was next man up and I think they executed very well. ... But it's the playoffs. We just have to stay focused for 48 minutes."

Dallas was much improved in the third quarter, scoring 34 points to top its first-half total, but still went into the final period with an 87-64 deficit. Irving had 20 points in the third quarter on 8-of-8 shooting.

"We did dig ourselves a hole, but the positive was we kept fighting there in the second half," Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. "We expected the Clippers to come out and be physical, we just didn't respond in that first (half) to their physicality."

The Mavericks pulled within 90-75 on a 3-pointer by Doncic with 8:22 remaining. Los Angeles quickly pushed the advantage to 100-78 on a 3-pointer from Mann with 6:12 remaining and coasted to the victory from there.

The Clippers shot 46.0 percent from the floor, while the Mavericks finished at 38.8 percent.

Game 2 of the series is set for Tuesday at Los Angeles.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA playoffs: LA Clippers defeat Dallas Mavericks in Game 1