Paul George, Kawhi Leonard rescue Clippers late to snap slide

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Monday, March 6, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- The LA Clippers were staring at the possibility of a disastrous and crushing loss Sunday night after surrendering 51 points in the third quarter and falling behind by 14 with under nine minutes left to the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies.

But Paul George and Kawhi Leonard took over the game and lifted the Clippers to perhaps their biggest win of the season. George and Leonard scored 25 of their team's final 28 points to rally the Clippers past Memphis, 135-129, at Arena.

The much-needed win halted a five-game slide and gave the Clippers their first victory since the All-Star break. They alsobecame the first team to win a game despite allowing a 50-point quarter since the Cavaliers on Nov. 12, 1991, against the Bucks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"We just played harder," George said. "Which really was the difference. We just brought another level. We played with some grit and we changed ... I just felt tonight we just had a winning spirit."

George and Leonard saved the Clippers from what would have been a devastating loss.

George had 42 points, 11 rebounds and 1 big steal with 25.3 seconds left off Jaren Jackson Jr.while the Clippers were trying to protect 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 play with 2:47 remaining to give the Clippers a four-point lead.

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

George and Leonard helped the Clippers finish the game with a 28-8 run. They both said the Clippers have to take the way they played in the fourth quarter into their next home game againstToronto.

The Clippers currently are in eighth in the Western Conference standings.

"This means nothing if we don't buy in to what we can do and what we can be," George said. "So we'll see. If we don't treat the next games [the same way] that we treated that fourth quarter tonight, then what are we doing here?"

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

"It felt like the stakes were high," said Clippers coach Ty Lue. "I know the guys wanted to play well, they wanted to win.

"... It was a huge win for us despite those guys missing some players, but we needed it."

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

"It was an internal thing that I think everybody [felt] it needs to start now," George said of the Clippers' turnaround. "... to give up 51 points, we weren't too happy about that, on the bench. So that's really where it came from."

Now the Clippers have to find a way to maintain this kind of urgency and desperation in their final 15 games. George said that he is feeling healthier after dealing with a knee issue.

"I'm able to actually hoop," said George, who made 14 of 15 free throws while the Clippers converted 33-of-35 from the line. "I had a hard time planting and pushing off 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 pretty much for the whole season. That was just the difference."

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