George, Leonard combine for 88 as Clippers beat Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS — It’s hard to stop Paul George. It’s hard to stop Kawhi Leonard. It’s really hard to stop both at the same time.
George and Leonard showed what the Los Angeles Clippers had in mind when they teamed up the superstar duo Friday night. George scored 46 points, Kawhi Leonard had 42 and the Clippers held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-117 for their fourth consecutive victory.
“It’s special, two guys offensively,” George said. “The thing about it is, we’re dishing, finding each other, feeding each other. And then when we have moments to be aggressive, we’re looking to get aggressive, attack, look for our shots. It’s great when both guys can get it going”
Leonard and George became the first set of teammates in Clippers’ history to each score 40 points. It was the 21st time in NBA history it has happened. The last time it was done, it also involved George. He and Russell Westbrook did it for Oklahoma City last season.
Leonard and George’s previous high this season came Dec. 1, when they combined for 65 points against Washington.
“It’s great that we can have somebody else out there to help scoring the ball, making the game easier for myself,” Leonard said. “We’re still trying to build our chemistry out there.”
Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its seventh in a row. Towns had 14 points, including a 4-point play, in a 22-6 fourth-quarter run that trimmed a 21-point Los Angeles lead to five.
Andrew Wiggins added 34 points for the Timberwolves. His basket with 1:04 left cut the Clippers’ lead to 119-115. Minnesota didn’t get closer than four the rest of the way.
“Disappointed from the loss, but we fought back,” Wiggins said. “We were down big. Dug ourselves a hole. We fought back though. We went out swinging.”
Leonard and George set the tone early, combining to score the first 23 points for a Clippers team playing without Lou Williams, who sat out with a calf injury. In his absence, George and Leonard accounted for 54 of Los Angeles’ 65 first-half points. They became the first duo to each score 35 or more points through the first three quarters of a game in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Leonard made a career-high 19 free throws. He was 19 for 19 from the line.
“That was great,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We knew without Lou tonight, every play was basically for those two guys. And they came up big.”
The Timberwolves took a 51-50 lead in the second quarter with a 15-2 run, capped by a Towns 3-pointer. Leonard responded with seven consecutive points to give the Clippers the lead for good.
George started the third quarter with a 7-0 run of his own. He scored 16 in the third, when Los Angeles took control by outscoring Minnesota 37-23.
“Forty-six and forty-two, they make it very tough on you,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said.
Leonard’s 31 first-half points set a career high for points in a half. He tied a career high for points in a first quarter with 16.
“We got into our spots early, made shots,” Leonard said. “Paul carried us in that second half.”
Montrezl Harrell scored 18 points for the Clippers. Jeff Teague scored 22 for the Timberwolves.
Clippers: Guards Patrick Beverley (concussion) and Landry Shamet (high ankle sprain) also did not play. Shamet missed his 16th consecutive game. Only four Clippers scored in the first half: Leonard, George, Harrell and Patrick Patterson.
Timberwolves: Forward Jake Layman missed his 11th consecutive game with a left toe sprain. Forward Keita Bates-Diop returned to the rotation after missing Wednesday’s loss to Utah with flu-like symptoms. All 10 of Robert Covington’s points came in the second quarter.
Assistant coach Sam Cassell and Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders were assistant coaches on the Washington staff from 2009-14. Cassell also played two seasons for the Timberwolves from 2003-05 when Saunders’ father, Flip, was the coach.
“I can go on and on about how good of a person he is,” Ryan Saunders said.
Clippers: At Chicago on Saturday, a game that tips off less than 22 hours after Friday’s.
Timberwolves: Host New Orleans on Wednesday. Minnesota has won six of the past eight meetings.