Clippers aim to finish off Mavs in Game 6

The most intriguing first-round series of the NBA playoffs moves to a Game 6 on Thursday with the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers one victory from advancing past the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks.As of Wednesday night, the game was still due to be played despite the player-led boycott that prompted the postponement of all three of the NBA’s scheduled Wednesday games. Led by the Milwaukee Bucks, the players sat out to have their voices be heard in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer.As the title-contending Clippers bob and weave with the Mavericks and emerging superstar Luka Doncic, it was Los Angeles that made the latest statement, powering its way to a 154-111 victory in key Game 5 on Tuesday near Orlando to take a 3-2 series lead.The Clippers set a franchise record for points in a playoff game.After the Mavericks seemed to grab the momentum with Doncic’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer for an overtime victory in Game 4, the Clippers are now in control after Paul George broke free from a shooting slump.George made 12 of 18 shots in Game 5, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and scored 35 points, topping his point total from the previous three games combined. He admitted to emerging from a mental fog that had enveloped him in the NBA bubble.”I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George told reporters after Game 5. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression. Just being locked in here, I just wasn’t there. I checked out.”Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there. I felt like I wasn’t there. Shout-out to the people that were in my corner, that gave me words. They helped big time, helped get me right, (get) me back in great spirits. I can’t thank them enough.”George said he talked to his family, he met with the team psychiatrist, he played video games with teammates such as Montrezl Harrell to get his mind off basketball. Harrell has also admitted to mental health struggles of late connected to the recent death of his grandmother.Perhaps more important than George’s breakthrough on the court is the Clippers’ bonding as a unit over the past few days.Doncic did all he could in Game 5, but he shot just 6 of 17 from the floor and scored 22 points. Offensive and defensive options were limited with center Kristaps Porzingis missing a second consecutive game due to a sore right knee. Porzingis is listed as questionable for Game 6.Doncic also is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game in connection with his left ankle sprain from Game 3, but he seems more likely to play. The Clippers’ Marcus Morris Sr. stepped on Doncic’s sore ankle in Game 5 and then took to social media afterward to say “it was a mistake,” while also refusing to apologize.”I don’t want to talk to him,” Doncic said after the game, when asked if Morris explained himself. “He’s just saying a lot of bad stuff to me all game. Just, I don’t want to talk to him. I just got to move on. Like I said, everyone is going to have their own opinion and I just hope it wasn’t intentional. If that was intentional, that’s really bad.”Game 5 included six technical fouls, a flagrant-1 foul and the ejection of Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.Big shots and bad blood have managed to overshadow the grounded performance from the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, who has averaged 32.8 points per game while shooting 52.3 percent from the floor.Leonard scored 32 for the second consecutive game Tuesday and has not scored fewer than 29 in any game of the series.”I just thought we played hard and right and with a great spirit,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.