Kawhi Leonard's first career triple-double lifts Clippers over Heat
Coming into Friday night's meeting with the Miami Heat, things weren't looking up for the L.A. Clippers. They were fresh off a loss to the Atlanta Hawks — one of the worst teams in the NBA — and were down two starters in Patrick Beverley and Paul George.
It's not like their next opponent would be any easier, either. The Heat entered the game at 31-13, tied for the third-best record in the league. What's more, they've lost just once at home all season long.
Things weren't looking great for the Clippers early on. Jerome Robinson got his first career start, as he's one of the team's better defensive guards, and L.A. would need all the help they could get on that end against one of the league's top offenses.
Robinson and the Clippers got off to a shaky start. He recorded an assist in his first five minutes of play, but missed both of his shot attempts as well as a few other scoring opportunities. As a whole, the offense looked disjointed with him on the floor. Things got ugly not long after, as Miami went up 24-9 about halfway through the first quarter.
However, big contributions from L.A.'s role players started to add up, and the Clippers started to claw their way back in.
By halftime, L.A. had cut Miami's advantage down to just two. And in the end, the Clippers managed to complete the comeback, winning 122-117.
Landry Shamet and JaMychal Green were key to the performance. The two combined to score 27 points in the first half on 4-of-7 shooting from deep and 11-of-17 overall. 20 of those 27 were scored in the second quarter as well.
In the end, Shamet and Green combined for 36 points, 12 rebounds and six assists on 14-of-22 shooting.
Scoring has come easily to Shamet lately. Including Friday's game, he's posted at least 10 points in six consecutive games, which is tied for the longest such streak in his career. During that stretch, he's shot over 40 percent from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Williams and Kawhi Leonard combined to score just 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting from the floor. But despite that, the Clippers scored 41 points in the second quarter — showing just how important their depth can be.
L.A. kept coming at the Heat in the third quarter, keeping in striking distance for the first half of the frame. Eventually, a three-pointer from Leonard gave the Clippers their first lead of the night at 78-76 — and he didn't stop there.
Leonard had one of his best quarters of the season in the third, recording 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal on 6-of-6 shooting from the floor. His fourth rebound gave him 10 for the game, as well as his first career triple-double in 502 total games.
...but it actually didn't.
Leonard had one of his rebounds taken away between the third and fourth quarters, meaning his triple-double wasn't really a triple-double. Regardless, the Clippers continued to build their lead on the Heat and entered the fourth up 101-85.
The Heat stepped up defensively in the fourth quarter, holding the Clippers to just 21 points while scoring 32 of their own. And while they managed to make things interesting in the end, Leonard proved to be too much for them to handle.
The recently-named All-Star starter finished the game with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a block, officially giving him the first triple-double of his NBA career. It was also the seventh consecutive game in which Leonard scored at least 30 points, which is his longest such streak.
All things considered, this feels like L.A.'s best win of the season so far. Leonard continued his streak of dominant play, and the Clippers took down one of the league's best teams where they were previously virtually unbeatable without two of their best starters.
With the win, the Clippers move to 32-14 overall and 13-10 on the road. They'll have Saturday off before taking on the Orlando Magic on Sunday to wrap up the Eastern Conference road trip.