Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard in a 2019 preseason game against the Denver Nuggets at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. Photo credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

The Los Angeles Clippers, led by Kawhi Leonard, opened their first-round NBA playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Monday evening, with a 118-110 win.

Leonard, the former San Diego State star, scored 29 points, with 12 rebounds. The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, 21, had 42 points, setting a record for the most scored by a player featured in his first post-season contest.

The Clippers pulled away after the third quarter when Maverick Kristaps Porzingis got kicked out following his second technical foul.

L.A. enters the playoffs with the best chance of winning the NBA championship, 30%, according to prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com.

The projection is based on the site’s RAPTOR player ratings, which use play-by-play and player-tracking data to calculate each player’s individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement. The ratings are updated daily.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the second-best chance at 22%, one percentage point ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The site gives the Clippers an 87% chance of winning the Dallas series, a 72% chance of defeating either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals and a 43% chance of winning the Western Conference.

The Clippers, in their 50th season, have never won an NBA championship and have never reached the Western Conference finals. If they win their first two playoff series, they would face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals if the Lakers win their first two series.

Los Angeles’ two NBA franchises have never met in the post-season.

This is the eighth time in the last nine seasons the Clippers have reached the playoffs. This will be their first postseason with forward Leonard and Paul George, who were acquired in the off-season.

Leonard is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, including last season when he helped lead the Toronto Raptors to the title. George is a five-time All-NBA Team selection and a four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.

“We want to win the championship,” Clippers guard Paul George said. “That’s the reason we committed to be here. It’s as simple as that. We should have one goal and we have one goal, and that’s to win it.

Both Leonard and George played high school basketball in Southern California – Leonard at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley and Martin Luther King High School in Riverside and George at Knight High School in Palmdale.

The Clippers were 49-23 in the regular season, earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Their .681 winning percentage was fourth-best in franchise history.

Dallas was 43-32 in the regular season and the seventh seed in the Western Conference. The team’s .573 winning percentage was its best since the 2014-15 season.

The Clippers were 5-3 in the seeding games, including winning their last two. Leonard was the eighth-leading scorer in those games, averaging 28.8 points.

The Mavericks were 3-5 in the seeding games, including losing their last two. Doncic was seventh in the seeding games in scoring, averaging 30 points per game.

The Clippers were 3-0 against Dallas in the regular season, winning 114-99 Nov. 26 and 110-107 Jan. 21, both in Dallas, and 126-111 in a seeding game Aug. 6.

This will be the first postseason series between the two teams.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be televised by TNT.

The entire NBA postseason has been played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.

– City News Service and staff reports

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