Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard said he "definitely didn't want to go home" after producing a monster performance to avoid elimination from the NBA playoffs.
Leonard matched his playoffs career high with 45 points as the Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks 104-97 on Friday to force a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference first-round series.
Facing a postseason exit with the Mavericks leading 3-2, Leonard came up big for the fourth-seeded Clippers in Dallas, where the two-time NBA champion erupted on 18-for-25 shooting while nailing five three-pointers.
Through six games in the playoffs this season, Leonard is averaging 32.8 points per game on 60.5 per cent shooting. According to Stats Perform, he is the first player to average 30.0-plus points per game on 60.0-plus per cent shooting over his first six games of a postseason since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1983.
Total team win. pic.twitter.com/1aTyZvzr0o— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 5, 2021
As attention now turns to Sunday's decider in Los Angeles, Leonard told ESPN: "I definitely didn't want to go home.
"We have to do whatever it takes to get a win if we don't want to go home. It's on us."
For the first time in their history, the Clippers won three road games in one series, with Paul George contributing a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds as Reggie Jackson put up 25 points.
With the Clippers triumphing in Game 6, it marks the first time in league history that the road team have won the first six games of a postseason series with the home side playing in their true home arena.
"Just another basketball game," Leonard said as he looked ahead to Game 7. "Like we say, if we don't want to go home, pay attention to details, have faith, shooting the ball with confidence. If you do that, you can live with the results."
In 6 games this postseason, Kawhi Leonard of the @LAClippers is averaging 32.8 points per game on 60.5 percent shooting.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 5, 2021
He's the first player to average 30.0+ PPG on 60.0+ percent shooting over his first 6 games of a postseason since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1983.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue hailed Leonard, saying: "Great players perform in big moments. It just shows you who Kawhi Leonard is."
Mavericks counterpart Luka Doncic was also full of praise after Dallas failed to book their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Doncic – carrying 361 points from 11 playoff games into the contest, the highest total at that point of his career since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (405) in 1988 – posted 29 points but he was just two-of-nine shooting from three-point range.
On Leonard, Doncic told reporters: "I mean, he destroyed us. That's what it is. He had a hell of a game. And that's what he does."
Doncic and the Mavericks remain upbeat, despite their missed opportunity on home court.
"It's all right," Doncic said. "We're still motivated. There's one more game left. I don't see why we shouldn't believe in it. There's one more game, so we all believe."