Leonard, George star as Clippers tie series with Jazz

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George know it takes the two of them to make things go right if the Los Angeles Clippers are going to advance beyond the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time. Both responded again yesterday.

Leonard and George each scored 31 points yesterday to propel the Clippers to a 118-104 victory over the Utah Jazz and even their Western Conference second-round series at two games apiece.

“Myself and Kawhi got full trust in each other,” said George, who was playing in his 100th career postseason game. “It’s opportunities for us to score when we get switches, but then there’s opportunities to allow our teammates to be aggressive and make plays for them when we can attack our mismatches.”

Leonard and George also became fifth duo since the merger with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games.

“These guys understand that we need them to be the head of the snake and be super aggressive,” said Marcus Morris Sr, who had 24 points and was five of six on three-pointers. “Those guys are our leaders. We go as they go and they understand that. Guys have just been picking up the slack behind them.”

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard dunks over Utah Jazz centre Derrick Favors as guard Donovan Mitchell watches. PHOTO: AP

In a game that Los Angeles dominated all night, Leonard provided the highlight with his dunk late in the first half. He got the ball just beyond the three-point line, drove past Royce O’Neale in the lane and then slammed it over Derrick Favors to give the Clippers a 62-38 lead with 1:24 remaining in the second quarter. The dunk quickly went viral on social media and even caused Philadelphia star Joel Embiid to pause in the middle of his postgame remarks after the 76ers lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’m sure you saw that, but that Kawhi dunk was crazy,” Embiid said.

Utah won the tip and scored on Bogdanovic’s dunk before the Clippers scored the next 10 points and never looked back as Leonard had five points during the early run.

LA’s largest lead in the first quarter was 19 as it was six of 12 on three-pointers and forced six Utah turnovers. The Jazz trailed 30-13 at the end of the first quarter as they were six of 21 from the floor and didn’t make their first three-pointer until 1:34 remaining.