Paul George and Kawhi Leonard save Clippers late to slide

LOS ANGELES — The LA Clippers were staring at the possibility of a disastrous and crushing loss Sunday night after dropping 51 points in the third quarter and falling 14 behind the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies by less than nine minutes.

But Paul George and Kawhi Leonard took over and led the Clippers to perhaps their biggest win of the season. George and Leonard scored 25 of their team’s last 28 points to put the Clippers past Memphis 135-129 at Arena.

The much-needed win stopped a five-game slide and gave the Clippers their first win since the All-Star break. They also became the first team to win a game, although it has allowed a 50-point quarter since the Cavaliers defeated the Bucks on Nov. 12, 1991, according to an ESPN Stats & Information investigation.

“We just played harder,” said George. “That was really the difference. We just brought another level. We played with some courage and changed… I just felt tonight that we just had a winning spirit.”

George and Leonard saved the Clippers from a devastating loss.

George had 42 points, 11 rebounds and 1 big steal, 25.3 seconds behind Jaren Jackson Jr. while the Clippers tried to defend a four-point lead.

Leonard scored 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and added 10 rebounds and four assists. Russell Westbrook was the only other Clipper to score in the final nine minutes, converting a crucial three-point game with 2:47 left to give the Clippers a four-point lead.

Westbrook had 9 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in his first win as a clipper. He joined the team after the All-Star break.

George and Leonard helped the Clippers end the game on a 28-8 run. Both said the Clippers need to carry the way they played in the fourth quarter into their next home game against Toronto.

The Clippers are currently eighth in the Western Conference.

“It means nothing if we don’t embrace what we can and what we can be,” George said. “So we’ll see. If we don’t cover the next few games [the same way] that we covered the fourth quarter tonight, what are we doing here?”

For the Clippers, who had won 10 of 14 games prior to the All-Star Game, that was about as close to a mandatory win as this season since Memphis without Ja Morant (not with team), Dillon Brooks (suspension ) and Brandon Clarke (injury).

“It felt like there was a lot at stake,” said Clippers coach Ty Lue. “I know the boys wanted to play well, they wanted to win.

“… It was a huge win for us even though those guys were missing some players but we needed him.”

The Clippers led 72-61 with 11:03 in the third quarter, only for the Grizzlies to make 19 of 26 shots. Tyus Jones contributed 20 points in the quarter shooting 7-on-7.

“It was an internal thing I think everyone [felt] It has to start now,” George said of the Clippers’ turnaround. “…giving up 51 points, we weren’t too happy about that on the bench. So that’s really where it came from.”

Now the Clippers need to find a way to maintain that kind of urgency and desperation in their last 15 games. George said he feels healthier after dealing with a knee problem.

“I can actually mature,” said George, who took 14 of 15 free throws while the Clippers converted 33 of 35 from the line. “I’ve had trouble planting and pushing for a long time. But now my body feels pretty good. So I feel like I can do things that I haven’t been able to do so well all season. It was just that Difference.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *