Kawhi Leonard’s triple-double helps Clippers fend off LeBron-less Lakers – Press Enterprise

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LOS ANGELES — Tyronn Lue didn’t want to talk about records, either long-standing ones or what had transpired in the past two games of the Clippers-Lakers rivalry. None of it mattered.

The Clippers’ head coach only knew one thing: the Lakers are not to be taken lightly on any given night or year.

“They’re a good team. We’re a good team and anybody can be beat,” Lue said.

In the latest version of their 237-game series, the Clippers proved to be the better team. Kawhi Leonard had a 25-point triple-double, James Harden had 23 points and 10 assists and the Clippers beat the LeBron James-less Lakers, 127-116, at Crypto.com Arena to secure their third straight win and their 11th in the past 13 games.

A fourth straight “road” loss dropped the Lakers back under .500 at 22-23.

The Clippers (27-14) came out with the mindset that they were not going to let the Lakers take another game from them, with or without James. They started strong and finished stronger.

The Clippers led for all but a brief moment in the opening quarter, although the Lakers gave them pause down the stretch, twice closing within two points.

Leading 110-108 midway through the fourth, the Clippers scored nine consecutive points to open an 11-point lead. Leonard found Norman Powell for a corner 3-pointer and Leonard hit George with a pass for a layup. Powell scored again and Leonard made two free throws for a 119-108 advantage. But the Lakers cut it to single digits on free throws by Jarred Vanderbilt and a basket by Austin Reaves.

Yet, each time the Lakers would inch close, the Clippers looked to the 3-point line, a source of comfort lately. They came into the game shooting 46.2% from 3-point range and went a step further Tuesday.

Behind the sharp-shooting of Harden, the Clippers made 14 of 27 from behind the arc (51.9%).

And when they weren’t hitting 3-pointers, Leonard and Paul George were connecting on short-range shots and were able to re-establish a 10-point lead with 2:35 left to play. The Lakers never cut the margin to single digits again.

Leonard’s second career triple-double included 11 rebounds and 10 assists. George added 17 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Terance Mann and Norman Powell also had 17 points apiece and Russell Westbrook had 16 points and six rebounds.

Despite not having James, the Lakers’ offense was solid behind D’Angelo Russell (27 points, 10 assists) and Anthony Davis (26 points, 12 rebounds), but they couldn’t match the Clippers’ intensity.

The Clippers came out with the mindset that they were not going to let the Lakers take another game from them. They avoided another slow start, coming out with an aggressive attack that put the Lakers on their heels early on.

James sat at the end of the Lakers’ bench, an imposing figure dressed in green. A lingering left ankle injury that had sidelined him for four previous games this season kept him from playing in the third game in the cross-arena rivalry this season.

As tempting as it was, Lue didn’t take James’ absence for granted. He said the Clippers still needed to play hard and make sure they executed on both sides of the ball.

“We know LeBron’s extremely important to this team and everything he does with his team,” Lue said, “So, we definitely can’t let our guard down.”

That’s because the Clippers still had Davis and Russell to contend with, both of whom have been playing at a high level. Davis came into the game averaging 24.9 points and 12.2 rebounds.

“Our focus has to be sure that we are executing on both sides of the floor and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Lue added.

And that meant avoiding a slow start, the kind that nearly doomed them against the Brooklyn Nets, when George and Leonard failed to score in the first quarter.

That was not a problem against the Lakers. The Clippers came out firing, building a 16-point first-half lead behind 66% shooting from the field. They pulled away with a 15-9 run to go into halftime with a 77-64 lead. Leonard made all seven of his field goal attempts in the half when both teams scored nearly every trip down the floor.

Lakers forward Cam Reddish limped off the floor barely able to put weight on his right leg after going down at mid-court in the fourth.

More to come on this story.

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