Doc Rivers hailed Kawhi Leonard after the Clippers star helped lead the team into the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Leonard posted a double-double as the Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 111-97 to seal a 4-2 series win in the Western Conference first round on Sunday.
A two-time champion after guiding the Raptors to their first title last season, Leonard finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds in Game 6 at Walt Disney World Resort.
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Clippers coach Rivers heaped praise on the two-time Finals MVP following his exploits in the series against the Mavericks.
“Kawhi was phenomenal throughout this whole series,” Rivers told reporters. “I thought he was dominant and then PG (Paul George) picked it up greatly after the first two games.
“But there’s so many other little things that guys — I thought that Marcus [Morris] throughout was not only just a good player but he was an instigator. [Ivica] Zubac had the playoff of his life. [Landry] Shamet and Reggie [Jackson] makes big shots. I liked how we looked in that way; that other guys contributed.”
Leonard had his fifth consecutive game with 30-plus points for the Clippers, who will face the Jazz or Nuggets in the next round.
He also recorded seven assists and five steals as the Clippers eliminated Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, and he became the first player in franchise history to post at least 30 points and five steals in a playoff clash.
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“You can tell he was the one guy that shoots to close out a series. He [Leonard] was calm. He got us in place,” Rivers said. “You know, during games you fall on a set and we fell on that low elbow set for him. We just took what was there. They didn’t come; he scored. If they came, he made the right pass.
“I said it before the game, I think I was talking to [ESPN analyst] P.J. Carlesimo and I was telling him, the one thing I didn’t know — I knew he could pass and I knew he may be a good passer. I didn’t know he was an elite passer, and that’s something you don’t know until you coach a guy.”
The Clippers managed to see off the Mavericks despite a game-high 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists from Doncic.
“This is playoff basketball and everything is not going to go your way,” Leonard said. “You’re going to have downs and ups. Just got to keep playing.”
Looking ahead in the postseason, Leonard added: “Just got to focus. That’s what we got to do. Less mistakes for sure, and more execution.”
“It’s one step closer to where we want to get to, so it’s a good accomplishment that we got through the first round, now we enjoy it tonight and we get ready for the next thing [Monday],” he said.