Could Friday night be the final game in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform for superstar Kawhi Leonard? It could be if Luka Doncic and the Mavericks eliminate the Clippers with a Game 6 first-round victory in Dallas, although the Clippers are 2.5-point favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds. While the Mavs obviously aren't winning without a big game from Doncic, the key Dallas player might be Tim Hardaway Jr. We'll explain. Pro basketball in L.A. could shockingly be done by Friday night for this season after the Lakers were eliminated Thursday.
The top-seeded Utah Jazz are awaiting this series winner in Round 2 – Dallas would visit Salt Lake City for Game 1 on Sunday if the Mavs win Friday, while if the Clippers win, then Game 7 of this series would be in L.A. on Sunday.
Not including the bubble last summer where there was no true "home" team, this is the first time in 36 years that the road team has won the first five games of a best-of-7 series. In the 1985 Western Conference Finals featuring the Rockets and Spurs, it also happened – then Houston won the series at home in Game 6 on the way to winning the NBA Finals. Not only are the road teams 5-0 SU in this series, they also have covered the spread in each with L.A. always a favorite.
Kawhi almost surely will not exercise his player option for the 2021-22 season even though it's for a cool $36 million. Instead, he'll hit unrestricted free agency and get a bigger, long-term deal. Leonard just bought a $17 million house in the L.A. area to go with his $7 million condo that he stays in during basketball season right near the Staples Center. So, he's probably re-signing with the Clippers.
One sportsbook does offer odds on Leonard's 2021-22 team: Clippers -800, Heat +300, Raptors +1600, Knicks +3000, Celtics +8000 and any other at +250.
Kawhi wasn't particularly good in the 105-100 loss in Game 5 as he was 7-for-19 shooting and 1-for-7 from deep, including airballing a late three-pointer that could have tied the game. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, but the Clippers were outscored by eight points with him on the court.
Meanwhile, the extra day off between Games 4 & 5 clearly worked wonders on Doncic's neck as he finished with 42 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists on Wednesday. The only other player with at least those numbers in a playoff game is LeBron James. In addition, Doncic scored or assisted on 83.8 percent of the Mavs' field goals, the highest such percentage in a playoff game in NBA history. Doncic is set at 29.5 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds for Game 6. He's +400 for a triple-double.
Why is Hardaway Jr. a potential key for Friday? He had 20 points in Game 5, the only other Dallas player in double digits. He has scored at least 20 points in all three Dallas victories and had 12 and four points in the two losses. Hardaway Jr. is set at Over/Under 17.5 for Game 6.
The lone injury concern is to Clippers center Serge Ibaka. He hasn't played since a back injury that he aggravated in Game 2. Ibaka is doubtful. The Clips have largely played small-ball without him.
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