NBA Playoffs

5 takeaways as Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers roll past Mavericks in Game 1

James Harden led the way for Los Angeles with 28 points.

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The Los Angeles Clippers are on the board first.

Los Angeles on Sunday rolled past the Dallas Mavericks 109-97 in their Game 1 matchup, doing so without star Kawhi Leonard, who missed out due to injury.

The Clippers used a dominant 34-22 first-quarter advantage to set the tone, then outscored Dallas in the second 22-8 to keep the gas on the pedal.

Los Angeles' largest lead was 29 points while Dallas never led. Dallas tried to make things interesting with a late fourth-quarter run, but it was only to make the scoreboard more flattering.

Here are five takeaways from the Clippers-Mavericks Game 1 showdown:

James Harden leads a balanced Clipper attack

With no Leonard, the onus shifted toward the other collection of L.A. stars to get the job done at home. Harden was the catalyst of what turned out to be a dominant and balanced Clipper attack.

Harden led the way with 28 points on 8 of 17 shooting overall, 6 of 11 from deep and 6 of 6 from the foul line to go with eight assists, two rebounds and two blocks.

Paul George added 22 points, Ivica Zubac dominated down low with 20 and both Terance Mann and Russell Westbrook chipped in with 13, the latter doing so off the bench.

Mavericks' star duo gets no help

On the other hand, the star Dallas duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving didn't get the help they needed to contest Los Angeles.

Doncic led the team with 33 points but wasn't too efficient, scoring 11 of 26 attempts overall, 4 of 12 from deep and 7 of 8 from the foul line. He added 13 rebounds, six assists and a steal. Irving recorded 31 points on 10 of 18 shooting overall, 3 of 6 from deep and 8 of 9 from the foul line to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The only other Maverick to eclipse double-digit point totals was P.J. Washington, who scored 11 on 4 of 10 shooting overall. Tim Hardaway Jr. mustered just six points in 16 minutes off the bench while Maxi Kleber had three in 27 minutes as a reserve.

Clippers light up the 3-point line

Much of the reason for Los Angeles' success in the opener boiled down to 3-point conversions. The Clippers went 18 of 36 (50%) as a team while the Mavs made only 10 of 33 (30.3%).

Harden and George combined for 10 triples as a duo, while players like Mann (3 of 3) and Westbrook (2 of 4) enjoyed hot outings themselves.

It might not be sustainable, but every margin counts in a playoff scenario. The Clippers just about controlled them all despite not having arguably their best player.

Ivica Zubac has breakout Game 1

Zubac hasn't always fared well against the Mavericks in playoff matchups, but his Game 1 performance illustrated his importance to this Clippers team.

The Clippers really only have two rotational big men in Zubac and Mason Plumlee off the bench, and the 27-year-old Zubac, who averaged 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 68 regular-season games, relished in a mini-breakout performance.

Zubac recorded 20 points on 10 of 17 shooting, 15 rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block in 33 minutes, easily outplaying Dallas' starting center Daniel Gafford, who only had three points in 14 minutes. If Zubac can maintain similar levels even with Leonard back in the mix, this series could take an intriguing twist.

Mavericks' mentality will be tested in Game 2

It won't be a do-or-die scenario if the Mavericks lose Game 2 on Tuesday. But they'll at least have to show more resilience before the series heads to Dallas for Games 3 and 4.

Since the Doncic era, the Mavericks have made the playoffs three times not counting this season. Two of those resulted in first-round losses to the Clippers while the other was a run to the Western Conference Finals that did not include any matchups against the L.A. side.

Doncic and Co. need to prove the Clippers aren't their playoff kryptonite in what'll be a decisive postseason.

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