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Kawhi Leonard and Paul George power the Clippers to beat the Knicks for the third straight win


They’re starting to build momentum again, each Clippers win a little more impressive than the last.

Along the way, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are showing why they’re one of the best dynamic duos in the NBA and why the Clippers still cling to championship aspirations.

Leonard was outstanding again, scoring 38 points, his left-handed dunk late in the fourth quarter was the finishing touch for the Clippers. 106-95 win about him The New York Knicks on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.

Paul George was masterful with 22 points, eight points, eight assists and a plus-21 in the plus-minus category.

“I think the most important thing is defense,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think those two guys looked at the best player on the other team and accepted that challenge, and when they’re playing at a high level defensively, we’re a different team.

“I think we did a good job taking care of the basketball and only 10 turnovers tonight. We got Kawhi out. He played the entire third quarter. To start the fourth, I thought PG really came in and offensively took over that game and gave us a good cushion.”

The Clippers won their third straight game, their longest winning streak since winning five straight games from January 20-28.

The Clippers have come a long way from the team that lost five straight games after the All-Star break.

The Clippers’ Paul George, left, controls the ball in front of the Knicks’ Josh Hart during the first half. George finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

(Ringo H. W. Chiu / Associated Press)

“It’s funny what a couple of wins will do to your team,” Lue said. “During that five-game stretch, we played some good games. … We’ve been playing some good basketball, we just haven’t been able to finish the game. So, I told our guys to keep going. It’s going to come and the last three games we’ve really been able to secure very well defensively.”

In their last two wins, the Clippers have given up 100 points to Toronto and 95 to the Knicks. The Clippers gave up 129 points to the Grizzlies, 51 in the third quarter. However, the Clippers shut down the Grizzlies in the fourth, holding them to just 17 in the fourth.

That was the first sign that the Clippers were headed in the right direction on defense.

“We own where this ship is going,” George said. “And they’re all marked down to do their job.”

That started with Leonard against the Knicks.

He was 14 of 22 from the field, 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and made all seven free throws.

Leonard made his biggest mark in the third quarter, scoring 19 points while playing the full 12 minutes, often too much for the Knicks.

“I got a few wide-eyed looks in that third quarter,” Leonard said. “I started attacking the basket, I ended up taking y-1. And then from there, he just shot the ball with confidence. PG found me for some wide open 3s and pretty much took us from there.”

When the Clippers took over the game in the fourth quarter, it was their defense that held their ground.

They shot 61.1% from the field in the fourth and held the Knicks to 27.8% shooting, 14.3% (one of seven) from 3-point range.

The Clippers started strong in the fourth and extended their lead to eight points.

It grew to 10 points later in the quarter when Leonard scored on a drive, was fouled, and converted the free throw for a three-point play. He grew to 14 points later in the quarter on Leonard’s 13-foot jumper.

The Clippers kept Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle in check, holding him to 19 points on 5-of-24 shooting, 3-of-10 on 3-pointers.

In the midst of all this, Russell Westbrook reached another milestone.

Westbrook had three assists against the Knicks and passed Isiah Thomas for ninth in the NBA all-time assists rankings with 9,062.

“To be on that list is great,” Westbrook said. “I think for a point guard like me, the different conversations I’ve had to go through throughout my career to be on the assist side are just special.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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