Kawhi Leonard and Clippers outduel Zach LaVine and BullsJanuary 11th, 2021
The duel began from deep, as was appropriate.
Kawhi Leonard rose up, 27 feet from the basket inside Staples Center two minutes into the third quarter Sunday and trimmed a seven-point Chicago lead to four. Fourteen seconds later, Bulls guard Zach LaVine answered with his own, from 28 feet.
The sequence set off a quarter that turned a sleepy early-afternoon tipoff into a shootout between the stars that continued into the final seconds of a 130-127 Clippers victory that improved their record to 7-4.
After scoring 21 points in the third quarter, his career high for any quarter, Leonard tied his career high with seven three-pointers en route to 35 points. The performance was only exceeded by the 45 LaVine scored behind 10 three-pointers — double his previous career best.
Yet LaVine’s final miss came when the Clippers needed it most. With the Bulls (4-7) trailing 128-125 with 11 seconds to play, and with Patrick Beverley stuck on his hip defensively, LaVine didn’t hit the rim with his 16th three-point attempt, allowing the Clippers to make two free throws and escape with a bounce-back victory after a loss Friday at Golden State.
There was late drama beyond the scoreboard as well. Leonard fell awkwardly in the fourth quarter’s final minute after driving for a layup, and held his left knee. After initially favoring the leg, slow to jog up court on defense, he stayed in and didn’t outwardly appear affected the rest of the game.
The Clippers shot 48% overall and made 20 of their 38 three-point tries, only the fifth time in the franchise’s history they made at least 20 from deep.
Chicago shot 61% from the field and made 18 three-pointers.
Paul George added 28 points and Lou Williams scored a season-high 21 points off the bench for the Clippers, who tinkered with their rotations throughout the game.
Despite playing without five players who combine to average 44.7 points, Chicago never rolled over, leading by 12 points in the first quarter and 13 early in the second. Two days after scoring 38 points in a loss to the Lakers, LaVine had scored 16 by halftime.
Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. wasn’t available because of a sore lower back, while the NBA’s health and safety protocols have sidelined Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchison, Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky since a Dec. 29 game against Washington. Hutchison, in fact, had yet to leave Washington, coach Billy Donovan said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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