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Leonard leads Clippers past short-handed Pelicans 111-106

Leonard leads Clippers past short-handed Pelicans 111-106
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LOS ANGELES - Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Paul George added 27 and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 111-106 on Wednesday night.

The Pelicans were missing starters Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe. Together, they account for 46.1 points and 15.6 rebounds per game. New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said Williamson was ruled out because of inconclusive test results.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Pelicans with 37 points and eight rebounds, both career highs in his first start of the season.

“Walker really kept them in the game,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He made 3s, layups and in-between layups. He pretty much got everything he wanted.”

But the Pelicans didn’t get much production out of two other first-time starters. Josh Hart finished with six points, and former Clipper Sindarius Thornwell was scoreless.

Brandon Ingram’s jumper drew the Pelicans within four, the closest they came in the fourth quarter.

From there, Leonard and George combined to score 16 consecutive points. Leonard’s 3-pointer that restored the Clippers’ lead to double digits had team owner Steve Ballmer whipping his right arm in the air from his seat next to the basket. Leonard finished with nine assists.

The Clippers saw their 12-point lead reduced to five in the closing minutes.

“It just comes down to us putting the game away when we need to,” George said. “We’re really good in the first and second quarters. In the third and fourth is where we need to clean up and buckle down. That’s going to come.”

Alexander-Walker scored nine points in a row for the Pelicans, but he couldn’t singlehandedly outduel the Clippers’ two stars.

“Early on, I tried to let it come to me,” Alexander-Walker said. “As the flow of the game went on, I was just kind of riding its wave and figuring out where to assert myself.”

Ingram added 22 points with the Clippers’ defence focused on him. Jaxon Hayes grabbed 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who dropped their fourth in a row. They hadn’t played since losing at Charlotte last Friday. Their game at Dallas on Monday was postponed, delaying the start of what was scheduled as a seven-game trip.

The Clippers rode a dominant second quarter, in which they outscored the Pelicans 33-15, to an 18-point lead on George’s 3 that beat the halftime buzzer. Los Angeles maintained a double-digit lead in the third, when George didn’t score and Leonard had six points.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: Bledsoe sat out with right eye irritation and Ball has bilateral knee tendinopathy.

Clippers: Lou Williams missed the second half after experiencing hip soreness. ... George had at least 25 points and five assists for the third straight game, tying the longest such streak of his career. ... Nicolas Batum got his 3,000th career assist in the first quarter.
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