Clippers’ defense holds Mavericks in check in Game 1 win

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.

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.

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 11. The star duo was 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the opening two quarters.

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.

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.