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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard After Losing Game 1: ‘We Believe in Ourselves’

Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers may have fallen to the Dallas Mavericks at home in Game 1 of their first-round matchup—and lost home-court advantage in the process—but they aren’t getting too down on themselves yet.

Luka Doncic’s triple-double helped Dallas stun Los Angeles, 113-103, handing the club a fourth consecutive postseason loss dating back to last summer. That doesn’t mean the Clips are panicking.

“Everybody was pretty up,” L.A. star Kawhi Leonard told reporters after the loss. “Nobody was really down on the game. Obviously, nobody wants to lose. But our spirits are still high, and we believe in ourselves. Nothing good comes easy.”

Despite Leonard and Paul George combining for 49 points, the Clippers offense went cold at the worst possible time Saturday, missing eight of its last nine field-goal attempts—along with three free throws—as the Mavs ran away with the upset.

It was less than a year ago Los Angeles blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, and that sting is no doubt lingering. The stunning elimination cost head coach Doc Rivers his job. Now it’s on his successor, Tyronn Lue, to prove the team won’t fall into the same trap this season.

“We had a lot of breakdowns, a lot of mistakes defensively that we didn’t execute right,” Lue said. “We’ve just got to clean those things up and we will be fine. We’ve got to all be on the same page defensively with what we are doing and when we are changing coverages, as well.”

The Mavs have now beaten Los Angeles in three of four meetings this year after clinching the regular-season series 2-1. In both Clippers losses during the season, Leonard and George were held under 50 combined points and L.A. failed to score more than 100 points total.

The lone victory saw the Clippers’ duo combine for 37 points—but Los Angeles also happened to get double-digit scoring from all five starters as well as Nicolas Batum and Lou Williams off the bench.

Perhaps knowing the recipe to put Dallas away is providing the Clips with confidence this postseason. Putting that into action, however, has been an entirely different struggle—one Leonard, George and Lue are confident the team will overcome.

“We want to be the last team standing regardless of however many games it takes or how tough the road is,” George said. “So, we got to be better for Game 2, and I plan on this team bouncing back.”

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