LOS ANGELES • For a second game in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers had no answer for Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.
That was also the case in last season's first-round match-up, except his teammates failed to match his level of play then.
This time, led by the exemplary Doncic, they look ready to win their first post-season series since 2011, when they claimed their sole National Basketball Association (NBA) championship.
The All-Star guard blew past the Clippers defence for 39 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, leading the Mavericks to a 127-121 victory over the hosts on Tuesday and a commanding 2-0 lead in their Western Conference play-offs opening series.
The Slovenian's second straight game with over 30 points puts the Mavericks in the box seat as the best-of-seven series heads back to Dallas for Game 3 today and Game 4 on Sunday.
Doncic also got plenty of help from his supporting cast, with Tim Hardaway Jr adding 28 points and centre Max Kleber getting 13.
Before the game's tip-off, forward Kristaps Porzingis was fined US$50,000 (S$66,160) for breaching NBA Covid-19 protocols after the Latvian visited a Los Angeles strip club on Sunday, but he did not let the incident distract him, pouring in 20 points for Dallas.
More than 15,000 fans will be present at the American Airlines Centre today and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wants his players to keep up the same level of intensity.
"To this point, we've been very focused and very determined. We've just got to make sure that continues," he said.
"The challenge is always, when you win a game or two games in a play-off series, how do you measure up against the human nature curve where a lot of teams will have letdowns?"
Dallas great Dirk Nowitzki, the inspiration behind their 2011 championship, sat behind the team bench at Staples Centre and Carlisle hopes their "lucky charm" will be an ever-present as they bid to take a near insurmountable 3-0 lead.
No team have mounted a successful comeback from such a deficit but Hardaway Jr will not put it past the Clippers, who despite finishing the regular season one spot above the fifth-seeded Mavericks, are still thought of as one of the NBA title favourites.
"We can't rest," he said. "We know what they're capable of."
Los Angeles also still feel they are not out of it, with coach Tyronn Lue saying: "I'm not concerned. They won two games on our home floor and now we got to return the favour."
Guard Paul George, whose 28 points was second to the game-high 41 points by fellow All-Star and forward Kawhi Leonard for the Clippers, added: "I'm pretty sure everyone expected us to win this. They're (the Mavericks) playing free and with confidence and I think we're giving them a little too much confidence. It's up to us to shut that down."
In the East, Kevin Durant scored 26 points and Joe Harris added 25 as the Brooklyn Nets seized control early and cruised to a 130-108 win over the Boston Celtics. The second-seeded Nets lead the series 2-0 with Game 3 today in Boston.