James Harden points out the Clippers' Game 1 win over the Mavs

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden said he still has something to prove during the postseason in what has been a very productive career.

With Kawhi Leonard missing Game 1, Harden had his best Clipper first half, scoring 20 of his 28 points to help Los Angeles build a 29-point lead en route to a 109-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Crypto.com Arena. Sunday.

“I can score with the best of them,” Harden said. “I can still score with the best of them. My role on this team is just to generate really good shots and make it easier for guys. And then when my number is called, you score the basketball. Obviously, Kawhi is out. So my playmaking style is And my volume would go up a little bit more, and I took advantage of that.”

Despite Leonard missing the opening round of the first-round series due to inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee, the Clippers turned in one of their most inspiring performances of the season. Ivica Zubac set the tone early and finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds.

The energy and activity on both ends from Russell Westbrook and Terrence Mann was crucial. Paul George scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help close out the game.

But it was Harden's outside shooting in the first half that provided the Clippers with a different element. Coach Ty Lue spoke to Harden in April when Leonard missed the final eight games of the regular season about his need to score more.

Harden scored 20 goals in a win over the Denver Nuggets and 22 goals in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers late in the season. That carried over into Game 1, when Harden was aggressive and looking for his shot, something he has avoided on several occasions this season as he has tried to be more of a playmaker.

Lue described Harden's scoring for the team as a “huge asset.” “When he scores the basketball and makes the right plays, it's huge. He realizes he doesn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting with Kawhi and PJ on the floor. But if one of those guys comes out, he's going to have to step up and be aggressive to score the basketball, that's What he's been doing to us lately.

Harden scored 42 or more points in two games during Philadelphia's Eastern Conference semifinal loss to Boston last year. But in the team's losses in Games 6 and 7, he shot just 7-for-27 and collected 22 points and 16 assists. He had nine points, seven assists and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-11 in Philadelphia's 112-88 Game 7 loss in Boston.

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On Sunday, Harden not only scored goals, but also had eight assists. All told, he scored or assisted on 49 points for the Clippers, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

With Leonard's status uncertain in Game 2, Harden may have to help carry the scoring load again.

“James was great,” Zuback said. “We needed him and he played great. He's one of the greatest scorers this game has ever seen. He can do that every night. It's a different role for him in this game and [with Leonard out]”We need him to score more and that's what he did and we all know he can do that.”

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