Kawhi Leonard and Paul George power Clippers past Knicks for third win in a row
They are starting to build some momentum again, each win by the Clippers a little more impressive than the previous.
Along the way, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are showing why they are one of the NBA’s top dynamic duos and the reason the Clippers are still holding on to championship aspirations.
Leonard was outstanding again, scoring 38 points, his left-handed dunk late in the fourth quarter the finishing touch on the Clippers’ 106-95 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
Paul George was masterful with 22 points, eight points, eight assists and a plus-21 in the plus-minus category.
With consecutive wins during this week, the Clippers believe they’ve found the momentum that had been missing during their five-game losing streak.
“I think the biggest thing is defensively,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think those two guys locking into the other team’s best player and taking that challenge, and so when they are playing at a high level defensively, we’re a different team.
“I thought we did a good job taking care of the basketball and only 10 turnovers tonight. We got Kawhi out. He played the whole third quarter. To start the fourth, I thought PG really came in and offensively just kind of took over that game and kind of give us a good cushion.”
The Clippers won their third consecutive game, their longest winning streak since they won five consecutive games from Jan. 20-28.
The Clippers have come a long way from the team that lost five consecutive games after the All-Star break.
“It’s funny what a couple of wins will do to your team,” Lue said. “During that five-game stretch, we played some good games. … We’ve been playing some good basketball, we just haven’t been able to finish the game out. So, I just told our guys to stick with it. It’s going to come and the last three games we really have been able to lock in really good defensively.”
In their last two wins, the Clippers gave up 100 points to Toronto and 95 to the Knicks. The Clippers gave up 129 points to the Grizzlies, 51 in the third quarter. Yet the Clippers shut down the Grizzlies in the fourth, holding them to just 17 in the quarter.
That was the first sign of the Clippers trending in the right direction on defense.
“We took ownership with where this ship is going,” George said. “And everybody is dialed into doing their job.”
That started with Leonard against the Knicks.
He was 14-for-22 shooting from the field, three for six from three-point range, and he made all seven free throws.
Leonard made his biggest mark in the third quarter, scoring 19 points while playing all 12 minutes, often too much for the Knicks to handle.
“I got some open looks in that third quarter,” Leonard said. “Started off attacking the basket, ending up getting and-1s. And then from there just shot the ball with confidence. PG finding me for some open threes and just pretty much carried us over from there.”
When the Clippers took over the game in the fourth quarter, it was their defense that stood tall.
They shot 61.1% from the field in the fourth and held the Knicks to 27.8% shooting, 14.3% (one for seven) from three-point range.
The Clippers started strong in the fourth and pushed their lead to eight points.
Kawhi Leonard scored 24 points, Paul George had 23 and the Clippers broke away in the second half to beat the Toronto Raptors 108-100.
It grew to 10 points later in the fourth when Leonard scored on a drive, was fouled and made the free throw for a three-point play. It grew to 14 points later in the quarter on a Leonard 13-foot jumper.
The Clippers kept Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle in check, holding him to 19 points on five-for-24 shooting, three for 10 on three-pointers.
In the middle of all of this, Russell Westbrook reached another milestone.
Westbrook had three assists against the Knicks and moved past Isiah Thomas for ninth place on the NBA’s all-time assist leaderboard at 9,062.
“To be on that list is great,” Westbrook said. “I think a point guard like myself, the different conversations that I’ve had to overcome over my career to be in the assists side is just special.”
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