“Starts with me”: Kawhi Leonard sets record straight for game 2 loss vs Mavericks, sheds light on conditioning amid return

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers
“Starts with me”: Kawhi Leonard sets record straight for game 2 loss vs Mavericks, sheds light on conditioning amid return

Making his comeback to the lineup after a nine-game absence due to right knee inflammation, Kawhi Leonard showed signs of rustiness at times, struggling to find his rhythm.

Luka Doncic delivered a stellar performance, scoring 32 points to lead the Mavericks to a hard-fought 96-93 victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night in Game 2. With the win, the Mavericks levelled their first-round, best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

In the post-game presser, Leonard shed light on his conditioning, injury and splitting their home-court games:

"This is my first game in 20 something days. I don't know, I'm not measuring it. We've gotta be better as a unit overall, that starts with me."

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Nevertheless, he made valuable contributions, tallying 15 points and seven rebounds, albeit going 0-for-5 from the 3-point range. Despite the challenges, Leonard played a key role in keeping the Clippers competitive throughout the game.

As the series progresses, Kawhi Leonard will have more opportunities to regain his peak physical condition. He said:

"I feel good, we still got more games to play. More time to get better. That's what I'm focused on."

LA Clippers and Kawhi Leonard struggled in game 2 with a rough shooting night

In Game 1, the Mavericks never took the lead, while in Game 2, they dominated most of the matchup in a defensive battle where neither team established a double-digit advantage. The game witnessed the lead shifting 10 times.

The Clippers held a six-point advantage earlier in the fourth quarter, yet Doncic's clutch performance, including two crucial 3-pointers and four assists, propelled the Mavericks to victory, snatching home-court advantage from the Clippers.

James Harden spearheaded the Clippers' offense with 22 points and eight assists, while Paul George also contributed 22 points to the team's effort. George addressed Kawhi Leonard's return to the lineup after missing nine games:

"Y'all know this, Kawhi is one of the best in the world. He's going to find his rhythm. We're going to find our rhythm around him."

Mavericks starting center Daniel Gafford sustained a lower-back injury just three minutes into the game but made a comeback in the second quarter, albeit without contributing to the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr. suffered a sprained right ankle and was unable to return to the game.

The series moves to Dallas, where the Mavericks aim to maintain their dominance on their home court at the American Airlines Center.

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