Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, shoots as Los Angeles...

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard defends during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES — A rusty Kawhi Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in his return for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he couldn't prevent their 96-93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

The Mavs evened the series Tuesday night.

Leonard played 35 minutes in his first game since March 31. He came back after missing three weeks because of right knee inflammation.

“I felt good,” he said. “We still got more games to play and more time to get better. Just keep trying to get a rhythm back.”

Leonard wasn't under a minutes restriction; instead, Tyronn Lue gauged how his superstar forward was feeling throughout. Leonard had not participated in any contact practices going into the playoffs.

“The last couple days I felt great,” he said.

The Clippers beat the Mavs 109-97 in Game 1 on Sunday while Leonard watched from the bench.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard dunks against the Charlotte...

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard dunks against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, March 31, 2024. Credit: AP/Nell Redmond

“It's great having ‘2’ back out there,” teammate Paul George said, referring to Leonard's jersey number. “He's going to find his rhythm and we're going to find out rhythm around him.”

He'll have a couple of days to get back into rhythm as Game 3 is Friday night.

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