LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George got beat up again, came back and hit some big shots to help the Los Angeles Clippers rally late.
Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and George added 19 in a 108-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
Leonard’s one-handed dunk gave the Clippers a two-point lead with 1:35 remaining after they trailed by 15 in the first half. Leonard then blocked DeMar DeRozan’s shot, and George’s step-back jumper made it 106-102.
Patty Mills hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to draw the Spurs within one.
Lou Williams got fouled and made both for the Clippers. Mills’ half-court heave at the buzzer came up short.
George got hit in the nose by DeRozan’s left elbow at 6:02 of the third. After a video review, DeRozan was called for a flagrant-1 foul. DeRozan was driving to the basket when he struck George, who spun around and went down on his knees holding his face. A trainer brought over a towel to soak up the blood.
”I felt blood start trickling when it first happened and next thing I know it’s Niagara Falls flowing,” George said. ”It’s not broken. It’s sore. It’s larger than usual right now so hopefully just ice it down, help with the swelling.”
George has no plans to wear a protective mask.
”Tough cat. I thought it was broke, how it was leaking out there,” Williams said.
Asked if he thought George would return, Clippers coach Doc Rivers joked, ”Yes, we’re a hockey team.”
George came back in the fourth. On Saturday, he got poked in the eye against Minnesota and stayed in the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and DeRozan added 26 – but none in the fourth – for the Spurs, whose two-game winning streak ended. Aldridge had 13 points in the fourth.
Patrick Beverley’s 3-pointer tied the game for the Clippers for the last time at 102-all.
Leonard’s streak of nine straight games with at least 30 points ended. George had a season-high 12 rebounds to go with a game-high eight assists.
”There’s still more improvement to go,” Leonard said of the Clippers. ”Came out a little flat and early on not really playing hard on the defensive game, took a little while to pick that up.”
The Clippers dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Spurs 31-19, but led by just three going into the fourth.
”We couldn’t capitalize and they did off our mistakes – transitions, dunks, 3s,” Mills said.
The Spurs blew a 15-point first-half lead and the game became a back-and-forth affair over the final two quarters.
”We did a good job upping our energy,” Williams said. ”We spent too much time feeling them out instead of being forceful.”
Spurs: The teams combined to make 12 of 22 shots from 3-point range in the first quarter.
Clippers: Leonard’s streak of 30-point games was the longest in the NBA this season and the longest by a Clippers player since World B. Free in 1980. … Leonard missed a one-handed dunk in the third when the ball hit the edge of the backboard.
Jakob Poeltl tried to enter the game in the first quarter, but didn’t have his jersey on. The Spurs got a delay-of-game warning as the crowd laughed. Poeltl smiled sheepishly.
”It was a priceless moment,” Mills said. ”A big, tall, goofy guy walking around, didn’t know what to do.”
DeRozan said: ”We needed a good laugh. I told him all exposure is good exposure.”
KEEP IT TOGETHER
George said he hopes the Clippers maintain their current roster through Thursday’s trade deadline.
”I enjoy every player on this team, I enjoy this locker room, I’m happy with who is in our locker room,” he said.
POP & KOBE
For Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, the death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash last week remains palpable. ”There’s nothing like losing somebody. Nothing like it,” said Popovich, whose wife died in 2018. ”Nobody knows what it’s like unless you’ve done it, so I really feel for them all. The memories will always be there, but I just feel for the families.”
Spurs: Stay in L.A. to play the Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back Tuesday.
Clippers: Host Miami on Wednesday, a team they beat by five points on the road last month.
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