The Los Angeles Clippers’ injury-plagued season has been marked by constant lineup adjustments and inconsistent play, but there are promising signs ahead.
The Clippers look to build on their best-shooting game of the season when they continue their four-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
Despite its .500 record, Los Angeles remains a viable title contender thanks to stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. When the pair is on the court together, the Clippers are as dangerous as any team in the league. The problem has been keeping them both on the floor.
Los Angeles has struggled to build momentum with Leonard and George missing a combined 41 games due to injury or illness. Friday was just the third game the duo played together this month.
Not surprisingly, the Clippers looked like a different team with both stars in the lineup. Leonard led the way with a season-high 36 points in Friday’s 131-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs. The five-time All-Star also contributed seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.
“I’m feeling a lot lighter, moving a lot bit better out there,” Leonard said. “I’m feeling pretty good. Played a few games in a row.”
George added 16 points and 12 assists for the Clippers, who shot 63 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from 3-point range.
The Clippers had lost nine of 11 entering Friday’s contest, but coach Tyronn Lue said the victory over the Spurs could signal a new beginning.
“I felt it this morning,” Lue said. “I think having our guys back and everyone going back to their natural roles helps us out a lot. With Kawhi and PG (Paul George) on the floor, we play at a high level.”
Los Angeles is looking for its second straight victory over Dallas after winning 113-101 at home on Jan. 11. The Clippers won despite another stellar performance by Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who had 43 points and 11 rebounds.
The game marked the ninth time in 27 regular-season and playoff games that Doncic has scored 40 points against the Clippers.
Dallas snapped a three-game losing streak with a 115-90 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday. Doncic had 34 points and 12 rebounds, Spencer Dinwiddie added 19 and Reggie Bullock scored 15 on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
Bullock has struggled from 3-point range for much of the season but is 19 of 29 (66 percent) over his past four games.
“Just continue to just keep believing in my shot,” Bullock said. “I believe in the work that I continue to keep putting in. It was a very slow start for me, but the organization, the team, every day they’re telling me, ‘Shoot the ball, shoot the ball.'”
Bullock’s scoring will be needed without Christian Wood, who is averaging 18.4 points but will miss multiple games with a broken left thumb.
The Mavericks turned in an improved defensive effort against Miami after coach Jason Kidd criticized their effort in a 130-122 loss on Wednesday.
“I think there was clarity of what we asked them to do in this game plan, and they responded,” Kidd said. “It wasn’t me calling them out. You could just see they were flying around. So now we’ve got to hold them to that standard.”
The Mavericks also received a spark against Miami from two players who recently rejoined the lineup. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 10 points in his second game after missing 14 with a right adductor strain.
Josh Green played his second game after missing 20 with a right elbow sprain. He finished with 12 points off the bench.
–Field Level Media