• AFP-JIJI

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Kawhi Leonard finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Los Angeles Clippers won Game 7 126-111 at home on Sunday to eliminate the Dallas Mavericks and punch their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Los Angeles withstood a 46-point performance from Mavericks star Luka Doncic on Sunday to take the Western Conference series 4-3, finally cashing in on home court after the road team had won each of the first six games.

“It’s all about the moment,” Leonard said. “You got to be aggressive all night and don’t try to make the game be perfect.

“We never gave up. We wanted to get better and we did it, especially on the defensive end.”

Marcus Morris scored 23 points and Paul George tallied 22 and dished out 10 assists for the fourth-seeded Clippers in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 7,300 at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The Clippers advanced to the second round to face the top-seeded Utah Jazz with Game 1 on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

The Clippers are the sixth team in NBA history to lose the first two games at home and win a series.

“It was a total team win,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We wanted this moment. It was a great test for us, making us battle tested going into the second round. That was a great win for us.”

Doncic continued his superb play in the series despite playing with a sore neck. He added 14 assists and seven rebounds Sunday in his first Game 7 in just the second playoff series of his young career. The Mavericks also lost to the Clippers in the first round last season.

“We gave everything,” Doncic said. “I’m very proud of this team. Obviously I hate losing. We hate losing, but I’m proud of my team.”

In the night’s other game, Trae Young scored 35 points and the Atlanta Hawks held off a late rally to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 128-124 in the opening game of their second-round series.

Young, who averaged 29 points a game in the first round, pushed the visitors to a 19-point lead with eight minutes remaining, only for Atlanta to struggle down the stretch and barely hang on for the victory.

The Hawks grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with Game 2 in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“They hit us in the mouth to start the game,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “They were the more aggressive team. They were the more physical team. They got off to a better start.”

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