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Kawhi returns in Game 2 defeat to Mavs

MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / Getty

Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard returned for Tuesday's Game 2 defeat against the Dallas Mavericks, ending a nine-game absence due to right knee inflammation.

Leonard had 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals on 7-of-17 shooting in the 96-93 loss that evens this first-round series at one game apiece.

Leonard, a two-time Finals MVP, last played on March 31. The 6-foot-7 wing provides Tyronn Lue's squad with another defensive option to stifle the Mavericks' star duo of Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic.

Without Leonard in their series-opening win Sunday, the Clippers deployed Terance Mann most frequently against Doncic, per NBA's player tracking analysis. Mann also tied with Amir Coffey for the most time matched up against Irving. Doncic (33) and Irving (31) were the only Mavs players to score more than 11 points, though the former only managed six points in just over five-and-a-half minutes with Mann as his closest defender.

The Clippers took Game 1 thanks in part to a 28-point, eight-assist performance from James Harden. In its last playoff series against Dallas in 2021, L.A. lost the first two contests before advancing after seven games.

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