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

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, right, and guard James Harden defend during the first 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 — Led by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the Dallas Mavericks bounced back to take away home-court advantage from the Los Angeles Clippers and newly returned and rusty Kawhi Leonard.

Doncic scored 32 points, Irving added 23 and the Mavs won 96-93 on Tuesday night to tie their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

“Obviously it was a must-win and everybody was locked in,” said P.J. Washington Jr., who had a big fourth quarter and finished with 18 points. “They punched us in the mouth in Game 1 and we just wanted to respond.”

Game 3 is Friday in Dallas.

Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes of his first game since March 31. He hadn’t played or had any contact practices during that stretch because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee.

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

The Mavs led most of the game two days after they trailed by 29 points and eventually lost 109-97.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, left, shoots as Dallas...

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, left, shoots as Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber defends during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill

“We played 48 minutes of physical basketball,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “Both teams were under 100. It was '90s basketball at its best.”

Paul George and James Harden led the Clippers with 22 points each. Ivica Zubac had 13 points and 12 rebounds. The team shot 37% from the floor and made just 8 of 30 3-pointers.

Leonard appeared to pick up steam after halftime and was more active defensively.

“Kawhi is one of the best in the world,” George said. “He's going to find his rhythm and we're going to find our rhythm around him.”

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, looks to pass...

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, looks to pass while under pressure from Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill

Plagued by poor shooting and behind for much of the game, the Clippers began rallying in the third. Trailing by seven, they outscored the Mavs 19-10 down the stretch to take a 66-65 lead into the fourth. Doncic tied the game at 65-all before getting called for a technical. Harden’s free throw provided the narrow lead.

“It's been a long time since he got a technical, so I think he was just trying to see if he could get a technical,” Kidd said. “He is using that to get himself going.”

The Clippers kept it up in the fourth, taking a 73-67 lead.

That’s when the Mavs scored 14 straight points to take an 81-73 lead. Washington hit a 3-pointer in front of the Clippers' bench, and Doncic and Irving followed with ones of their own in the spurt.

Zubac's dunk cut the Clippers' deficit to 84-81 before Maxi Kleber and Doncic sank consecutive 3s.

“The second half is the way we should play the whole game,” Doncic said. “We got to learn from that.”

The Clippers trailed 93-90 on Leonard's basket with 20 seconds left. Irving was called for a foul, which the Mavs challenged and got it overturned. Irving made 3 of 4 free throws before George sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I had two timeouts and we felt we could burn one on a challenge,” Kidd said. “Kyrie said he hit the basketball and he was right.”

Mavs starting center Daniel Gafford hurt his lower back three minutes into the game, but returned in the second quarter although he was scoreless. Tim Hardaway Jr. sprained his right ankle and didn't return.

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