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Home after tough trip, Clippers out to avenge loss to Heat

Dec 31, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) dribbles the ball while Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) defends in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George just established his top scoring output of the season while being booed vociferously by fans of the Indiana Pacers.

Come Monday, the crowd in Los Angeles will be decidedly pro-George when the seven-time All-Star attempts to follow up the 45-point performance with more success when the Clippers host the Miami Heat.

George was 15-of-25 shooting — including 7 of 13 from 3-point range — and recorded nine rebounds and three steals while the Indiana faithful once again expressed their disapproval. George spent his first seven seasons with the Pacers before requesting a trade and being shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the 2017-18 campaign.

But George and the Clippers left the building dejected as their defense wasn’t up to par and Indiana posted a 131-130 win.

“We still aren’t doing a great job of forcing teams baseline and forcing them out of the middle,” George said afterward. “We’re giving up too many middle drives.”

The loss was the second straight for Los Angeles and marked a 2-3 ending to a five-game road trip.

The Clippers make a brief stop home to face the Heat before going back on the road for two more games.

While George has been solid with nine 20-point efforts in the past 10 games, fellow star Kawhi Leonard has topped 20 points in consecutive games for the first time since tearing an ACL in his right knee in the playoffs in June 2021.

Leonard had 26 points during a 116-110 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday and followed up with 24 points against Indiana. He is averaging 23 points over his last eight appearances, topping 20 five times during the stretch.

Just as encouraging is that Leonard is averaging 35 minutes over the last four games.

“Still moving up the right track, feeling healthy still, and that’s what it’s about,” Leonard said after the Indiana game.

Miami has won three of its past four games and knocked off the Clippers earlier this season in South Florida.

Bam Adebayo had 31 points and 10 rebounds in the 115-110 win over Los Angeles on Dec. 8. George had 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers.

The Heat enter the contest on a high after Tyler Herro buried a 3-pointer as time expired to provide a 126-123 victory over the Utah Jazz on New Year’s Eve.

“Just trying to create and get a shot off, trying to create a shot whether it was for myself or for a teammate,” Herro told reporters. “We didn’t want to go to OT, so just glad the shot went in.”

With Jimmy Butler sitting out to rest his right knee, Adebayo (32 points, eight rebounds), Herro (29 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Victor Oladipo (season-best 23 points) picked up the slack.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Adebayo’s performance was just as important as Herro’s contributions as the club improved to 1-1 on a five-game road trip.

“It was his leadership more than anything,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo. “Constantly in the huddles keeping guys positive and focused on the task at hand. And he’s growing and really emerging with his voice.”

Adebayo has topped 20 points in five of his past six games and is averaging 24 points during the stretch.

Herro is averaging 27.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists over the past two games.

Miami has won the past two meetings after the Clippers won the previous six.

–Field Level Media