LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard showed just how much of a difference he can make for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Leonard scored 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Clippers to a 105-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.
Last Wednesday at Utah, the Jazz beat the Clippers by 15 points with Leonard sitting out. The following night, Leonard returned to the lineup and scored 38 points in a win over San Antonio.
“Great job, the last two games we just grinded out physical, hard playing defensive games,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I guess that’s what Kawhi can do, really. I thought Kawhi and Lou Williams started running some good stuff together and we’re going to get better and better at it.”
Against the Jazz, Leonard helped the Clippers erase a double-digit second-half deficit and remain unbeaten (4-0) at home. He shot just 9 for 26, but with the score tied at 86, Leonard scored six points to key a 19-8 run to close out the victory.
“I think it’s just about taking advantage of the moment and not shying away,” Leonard said. “You’re not gonna make every shot that you shoot to win a game or every shot in the fourth quarter, so to me it’s about keep being aggressive and keep having fun.”
Montrezl Harrell. Who had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers, was also singing Leonard’s praises.
“Kawhi is a winner,” Harrell said. “He’s a superstar and he knows how to win. He’s won multiple big stages.”
Six of Harrell’s rebounds were on the offensive end and came at a critical point in the game down the stretch.
“We got back in the game with second-chance points, crashing the glass and keeping the ball alive,” Harrell said. “I think a lot of our second -chance points really helped us in the game. We kept finding ways to get the ball and give ourselves an extra possession.”
Williams added 17 points for the Clippers
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 36 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 19.
“We made lots of little mess-ups and screw-ups late in the fourth quarter and that cost us the game,” Mitchell said. “They got loose balls and key rebounds and that pushed the lead up to six points. We have to find a way to close out games.”
After trailing by eight points in the opening quarter, the Clippers opened the second on a 20-4 run. Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer gave Los Angeles a 36-24 lead with 4:53 to go. The Jazz responded with a 17-3 run to finish the quarter and Mitchell’s basket in the final minute gave Utah a 41-39 lead at the break.
Both teams shot under 35 percent in the opening half. Leonard shot 1 for 9 in the first half and scored only five points.
LAC outrebounded the Utah 54-37 in the game and forced 14 turnovers.
“The difference was that they were able to get offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder, whose team has dropped two straight. “If you don’t get defensive rebounds, it’s a killer.”
Jazz: Utah coach Quin Snyder served as an assistant for the Clippers for the 1992-93 season. “It was a great experience for me to work with Coach Larry Brown and with so many others who went onto to have historic careers.” … The Jazz entered Sunday’s game as the NBA’s No. 1 defensive team, allowing 94 points per game.
Clippers: The Clippers have the fourth-best regular season record (407-239) since the start of the 2011-12 season. Only San Antonio, Golden State and Oklahoma City have more victories during that span.
MICHAEL JORDAN-KAWHI LEONARD-ALLEN IVERSON COMPARSIONS
In his availability prior to the game, Rivers compared Leonard to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. “Kawhi’s body type is more similar to Michael Jordan’s than anyone in the league and Kawhi has the toughness of Allen Iverson.”
PAUL GEORGE UPDATE
“Paul is working hard and putting in a lot of ‘live’ work,” Doc Rivers said. “We don’t have a timeline on his return yet, but we’ll be reassessing it next week.” George was on the floor shooting and warming up with the Clippers prior to the game.”
ALL-TIME SIXTH MAN
Williams is the only player in NBA history to appear in 50 games and average 20-plus points per game in under 27 minutes per game.
IRON MAN JOE
Per Elias Sports Bureau, Utah forward Joe Ingles has now played 310-straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. Also, since the start of the 2014-15 season, Ingles has played in more games (412) than anyone else in the NBA.