LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard more than did his part to make sure the Los Angeles Clippers made quick work of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The All-Star forward scored a season-high 43 points in 28 minutes on Tuesday night as the Clippers cruised to a 128-103 rout. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the third NBA player in the shot-clock era to score at least 43 points in under 29 minutes — and the first in franchise history to have at least 40 points in less than 30 minutes.
“We had great ball movement and obviously I made shots tonight,” said Leonard, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter. “The rest of the guys were making shots and they got me in my spots and opened the floor for me.”
According to Sportradar, it was only the second time since 1996 a Clippers player scored at least 40 points in the first three quarters. Lou Williams had 40 against Golden State in a 2018 game.
Leonard had 14 points in the second quarter and set a career high for three-pointers in one period with four as the Clippers broke open the game. He finished two points from tying his regular-season career high, going 14 of 22 from the floor and six of 10 from beyond the arc.
“His pace was fantastic. When Kawhi is that efficient it is pretty impressive to watch,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Williams added 24 points for the Clippers, who played again without injured star Paul George. They have won five of six and had six scorers in double figures.
“We had the right mindset and the right spirit tonight, both ends playing the right way,” said guard Landry Shamet, who scored 12 points.
Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 25 points and Cedi Osman added 21. Rookie guard Darius Garland, the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft, had 14 points and a career-high 10 assists for his first double-double.
Cavaliers coach John Beilein thought Garland’s double-double and Osman hitting five threes were some positive things to take away despite his team’s 10th loss by at least 20 points.
“There’s a lot of things we look at and say okay, in any lopsided loss earlier in the year we didn’t have those numbers,” he said. “The only thing we can do is find those growth areas. We know we are in transition.”
Osman’s three-pointer gave the Cavs a 34-33 lead with 9:58 remaining in the second quarter before Los Angeles outscored them 33-16 the remainder of the half.
The Clippers scored the final 13 points of the first half, including nine from Leonard. He closed the half by intercepting Osman’s pass and going down the floor for a dunk while drawing a foul from Garland. Leonard’s free throw completed the three-point play to put Los Angels up 66-50 at halftime.
The Clippers’ largest lead was 36 early in the fourth.