Leonard scored a season-high 31 points and the Clippers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Washington 102-93 on Saturday, extending the Wizards’ skid to a season-worst nine games.
“He’s feeling better, he’s feeling good, he’s starting to trust it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue.
Still limited to a minute after missing last season with a torn ACL, Leonard tied his season high of 31 minutes. He shot 12 of 26, made 5 of 8 free throws and had nine rebounds on a day that saw Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Reggie Jackson and Norman Powell sidelined. That left the Clippers without nearly 61 points per game.
“We just had to be more confident and aggressive the whole game,” Leonard said. “It was a big win for us.”
Luke Kennard added a season-high 20 points off the bench to match his season-high with four 3-pointers.
“You don’t want to leave him,” Leonard said. “If you give it to him, he’ll loosen it.”
Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 19 points. Kyle Kuzma added 17 points and Danny Avdia had 10 rebounds. The Wizards, who were without Bradley Beal, lost 12 of 13.
Los Angeles fought back in the fourth. Brandon Boston Jr. came off the bench and scored to tie the game at 78. Clippers lead 81-78. Amir Coffey’s layup and Kennard’s free throw after a Wizards technical delay.
“Just looking for a good lineup to hold it until Kawhi comes back,” Lue said.
Washington ran off seven straight and the Clippers responded with six straight. Porzingis’ basket tied the Wizards at 87-all.
Kennard hit a three-pointer to Nicolas Batum that put the Clippers up by three points.
Then Leonard left. He scored eight straight and missed only a free throw that would have been a three-pointer as the Clippers took a 98-89 lead and closed out their fourth win in five games.
“I was able to get into my positions,” Leonard said. “When it’s that time of the game, you want to be as aggressive as possible.”
The Wizards scored 18 points in the third and fourth quarters.
“Especially on nights when we struggle to score, defense is where we’re going to hang our hats,” Lue said.
The Clippers trailed by 15 points in the second quarter, but Leonard led the way in the third. He scored eight of their first nine points to tie the Clippers at 59.
From there, the Wizards outscored the Clippers 16-13 to take a 75-72 lead heading into the fourth. Avdija had six points with a one-way shot and Kuzma a two-way player Jordan Goodwin had 5 when Leonard got on the board with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Wizards. Beal (right hamstring strain) sat out his sixth straight game. … Rui Hachimura (sore right ankle) missed his 14th straight game. Although he’s still in discomfort, Hachimura has responded well in recent 3-on-3 play.
Clippers. George has a sore left knee, Zuback has a left knee contusion, Jackson has Achilles inflammation and Powell has a strained left groin. … The teams played a week ago, and the Clippers won by 10 points on the road.
Clippers guard John Wall hit a 3-pointer in the opening minutes against his former team, putting him over 12,000 career points. He is one of nine active players with at least 12,000 points, 5,500 assists and 1,000 steals. He finished with nine points, six assists and three rebounds.
Wizards. Stay in Los Angeles to visit the Lakers on Sunday.
Clippers. hosts Charlotte on Wednesday to close out a five-game homestand.
AP NBA. https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP–Sports