Leonard, Clippers survive shorthanded 76ers
LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers was thankful to have his full roster against the Philadelphia 76ers. Otherwise, he didn’t think his Los Angeles Clippers would be able to prevail in a game that turned out to be a track meet.
The Clippers had four players score at least 24 points for only the second time in franchise history and extended their winning streak to four with a 136-130 victory Sunday.
“We needed everyone tonight,” Rivers said. “Philadelphia played great and it felt like they made very shot, but our guys shot better. If we’re not at full strength, we don’t win the game for sure.”
The last time the Clippers had four players with 24 or more points was an April 1989 game against the Lakers. It is the second time this season the Clippers have had four players with at least 20 points.
Kawhi Leonard led the way with 30 points and Paul George added 24. Reserves Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams also had 24 points as Los Angeles shot 59.2% from the floor.
“We’re still at a point where we want to get better. We’re not being complacent at all. Hopefully we can stay healthy and keep building,” said Leonard, who had his 20th game this season with at least 30 points.
Los Angeles was able to withstand a career night from Philadelphia’s Shake Milton, who had 39 points, including seven 3-pointers. The first-year guard had 26 points in the first half, which tied a team season high.
Milton is seizing his opportunity to make an impact for the Sixers, who are missing Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Philadelphia remains a half-game in front of Indiana for fifth in the Eastern Conference.
“It kind of just happened randomly. I was ready, as soon as there was the opportunity,” Milton said. “Once the first couple ones knocked down, especially the first three, I felt pretty good. It definitely feels cool. I’ve never really played at Staples Center before.”
The Clippers trailed by two at halftime but took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Sixers 38-24.
The game was tied at 89 before Los Angeles went on an 18-5 run. Leonard scored 11 points in the period and George had eight.
Harrell’s dunk with 8:37 remaining in the game gave the Clippers a 117-103 lead. Philadelphia made a final charge to close within 125-121 with 3 minutes left but Williams’ jumper and Leonard’s pullup thwarted the rally.
“We played defense in the third quarter and kept a hot hand. I said at halftime the team that plays defense wins,” Rivers said.
Former Clippers forward Tobias Harris had 25 points and Alec Burks 15 for the Sixers, who have dropped two of their last three.
“They stood us up, they got into us on our back heels. I thought we had a hard time trying to find the rim,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “It was really our only blemish, that third period. Twenty-four points, given our other three periods, just wasn’t enough to cover their onslaught.”
Philadelphia started fast, making 11 of its first 13 from the field to take a 25-11 lead midway through the first quarter as Milton scored 11, including seven straight at one point.
Los Angeles cut the margin to five at the end of the first quarter and then scored the first seven points in the second to take its first lead at 41-39 on a pair of free throws by Harrell with 9:58 remaining in the first half.
The remainder of the quarter saw five ties and three lead changes before the Sixers went into the locker room with a 72-70 halftime advantage.
Milton made his first five 3-pointers and hit 13 straight over three games. That tied Brent Price and Terry Mills for most consecutive shots made from beyond the arc.
76ers: Josh Richardson suffered a bruised nose during the second quarter and did not return. The 76ers said he was in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will be reassessed Monday. He had nine points in 10 minutes. … It was the second time Philadelphia scored at least 70 points in the first half this season. It had 77 at Cleveland on Dec. 7.
Clippers: Rivers got his 935th victory, which moved him into a tie with Dick Motta for 12th on the NBA’s career wins list. … This is the Los Angeles’ league-leading 12th game this season with at least 130 points scored. … Ivica Zubac made his 200th career regular-season appearance and finished with four points.
76ers: Remain in Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Tuesday.
Clippers: Have three of their next four on the road, beginning Tuesday at Oklahoma City.
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