DALLAS • Paul George and Kawhi Leonard gave the young European duo from the Dallas Mavericks the best look yet at life among the elite in the Western Conference.
The former scored 17 of his 26 points in the first quarter, while the latter finished with 28 as the Los Angeles Clippers took control early in a meeting of teams with matching five-game winning streaks.
That resulted in a 114-99 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the hosts on Tuesday.
The visitors (13-5) used several defenders to end Luka Doncic's franchise-record streak of four games with at least 30 points and 10 assists, knocking him down on a four-of-14 shooting night.
The 20-year-old Slovenian guard paced the Mavericks (11-6) with 22 points and six assists, while Kristaps Porzingis had 15 points.
Dallas, however, were held to under 100 points for the first time this season, with George coming up with six steals, and Latvian centre Porzingis admitted both teams had different aims this campaign.
"They're looking to win a championship; they played like it was a play-off game," he said.
"They played aggressively and they showed us that we have to learn how to play these games. We have to bring that same intensity."
They're looking to win a championship; they played like it was a play-off game... They showed us that we have to learn how to play these games. We have to bring that same intensity.
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS, Dallas Mavericks centre, on the differences between the two teams' style of play.
Although Patrick Beverley got in foul trouble as one of the defenders assigned to Doncic, Lou Williams stepped in to finish with 21 points, going four of seven from beyond the arc.
The Clippers' defence also ensured last season's Rookie of the Year missed all eight of his three-point attempts, leading George to hail his teammates for "making it tough on a nightly basis on whoever we're playing".
Leonard added: "Wanted to do the best job we could on Luka. He's been killing it lately, playing at a very high level. We just wanted to make it difficult for him tonight."
It was a dose of reality for a team looking to end a three-season run without reaching the play-offs and the difference between both rosters was stark.
The league's highest-scoring bench finished with 44 points, while Dallas' reserves, fifth on that list, scored 37, but most of them came when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
"They're big, they're strong, they're highly skilled," said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, whose team were held to a season-low 38 per cent shooting.
"They pick you up full court and they hound you. This is a game we've got to learn from and do better next time."
In Denver, the Nuggets improved to 13-3 by beating the Washington Wizards 117-104.
Forward Jerami Grant came off the bench to lead the hosts with 20 points while reserve guard Jordan McRae, with 21 points, led the visitors, who fell to 5-10.
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