April 21, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard return as Clippers beat Magic

As glad as coach Tyronn Lue was to see Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in the Clippers’ lineup Friday in Orlando, Fla., their return answered only one of the questions looming over the team.

The Clippers had been rolling on a seven-game winning streak before their two stars entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. With his top scorers back after a two-game absence, Lue’s focus turned to how quickly the entire roster could “get our thing back building again as a team,” he said before tipoff.

How about six minutes?

George made his first shot, a pull-up from 16 feet, followed by Leonard’s three-pointer from the corner over the outstretched hand of 6-foot-10 Magic forward Aaron Gordon one possession later to spark a 14-0 run that produced a 15-point lead midway through the opening quarter. George capped the stretch by sprinting along the baseline, catching a pass from Serge Ibaka and flushing a one-handed dunk.

What followed wasn’t always so one-sided. Orlando ran off a 10-2 run late in the second quarter to pull within four. It scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to pull within three. Terrance Ross made his first seven shots and finished with 24 points off the Magic’s bench.

But their depleted roster couldn’t keep up against the suddenly fortified Clippers, who cruised to a 116-90 victory — their second in as many nights and their 14th consecutive over Orlando.

The Clippers improved to 2-1 on this six-game trip and 15-5 overall.

Rust? No, George and Leonard instead looked refreshed after the league-mandated four-day break.

Highlights from the Clippers’ 116-90 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

George scored 26 points with nine rebounds and five assists and Leonard added 24 points with four rebounds and three assists. Each shot better than 50% to help the Clippers make 48% of their shots.

They had entered the protocols Monday after playing in a win over Oklahoma City the previous day. As the Clippers departed for Atlanta, they were “just waiting for the quarantine time to be over,” Lue said Friday.

George said in a postgame television interview that he’d spent this week “just in the house chilling with my family.”

Saying before tipoff he didn’t know what level of conditioning the two had been able to maintain while away from the team, Lue planned to “just see how they feel” before determining their minutes. Each finished with 28 minutes.

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, left, celebrates with center Ivica Zubac after scoring as time expired at the end of the third quarter Friday against the Orlando Magic.

(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Etc.

The Clippers hired Paul Hewitt to coach their G League affiliate ahead of next month’s start to the season. Hewitt, a former college coach at Siena, Georgia Tech and George Mason, had worked for the Clippers as a scout since 2016. His staff with the Ontario-based Agua Caliente Clippers will include assistants Natalie Nakase, Chris Holguin, Darryl LaBarrie and Doug Martin. Nakase and Holguin worked for the team previously. The month-long G League season will take place at Disney World in Florida beginning Feb. 10.