Gradually the Clippers pulled away in the final quarter behind a show from extraordinaire reserve Montrezl Harrell, the steadiness of Kawhi Leonard and the energy from seldom-used reserve Derrick Walton Jr.
After the Clippers had defeated the Washington Wizards 135-119 on Sunday at Capital One Arena, some of the questions were about whether Leonard or Paul George would play Monday night in Indiana against the Pacers.
Before they answered that question, the talk was about how Leonard went to work in producing 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. And from listening to Leonard and coach Doc Rivers, it sounded as if the 6-foot-7 forward would sit out against the Pacers.
The conversations were also about Harrell’s 20 points and Walton’s seven points. And the discussions were about how the Clippers’ 16-point lead in the third quarter was trimmed to four points in the fourth before they built a 21-point lead and coasted to the victory.
“I thought we got stops early, which allowed us to play a little more freely offensively,” said George, who had 27 points and six rebounds and six assists. “And I thought that’s what kind of got everybody into a rhythm early and it just kind of carried us through the game. Even when they made pushes to come back, I thought the way we started really allowed us to play with a confidence and late game we found mismatches and just kind of put the game away.”
In the third quarter, Leonard lost the ball after he slipped. While on his back, Leonard extended his left knee, moving it up and down and putting both of his large hands on the knee. But he stayed in the game.
“I just kind of came off a screen and got tripped up,” Leonard said. “It was good. I was just making sure everything was good.”
Leonard has sat out six games, and four were because the Clippers were on the front- or back-end of consecutive games.
Asked whether he was playing at Indiana, Leonard was uncertain.
“I’m not sure,” Leonard said.
But George said, “Yeah, yeah,” when asked whether he would play Monday.
George spent his first seven NBA seasons playing for the Pacers. So, although he spent the last two seasons in Oklahoma City after being traded before joining the Clippers this season, George said returning to where he blossomed into an All-Star still is significant to him.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” George said. “I spent the longest part of my career in Indiana. A lot of those people there are still family to me, so absolutely. It’ll always be a significance coming back to Indiana.”
Rivers was asked whether Leonard and George would play against the Pacers.
“I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “One for sure. That’s what we’ve been doing lately. We just don’t know which one yet.”
Walton came up big for the Clippers during his 12 minutes of playing time.
He had five points in the fourth quarter, going two for three from the field and one for two from three-point range.
“I just tried to make an impact on the game,” Walton said. “That’s all it really boils down to. I’ve been playing this game for a long time. There’s no reason to freeze up.”