James, Lakers end Clippers five-game win streak, 106-103

The Clippers suffered a 106-103 loss in their last “visit" to their own arena.

LOS ANGELES – Since 1999 the Los Angeles Clippers have shared a building with their in-town rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. 

On Sunday the Arena (formerly named Staples Center) saw the Clippers battle against the Lakers as the “visiting” team one final time before they move to the Intuit Dome next season. 

Clippers guard Norman Powell nearly sent the game into overtime with a three-pointer that rattled in and out of the rim at the buzzer. Both teams fought until the finish, with neither leading by double digits until early in the fourth quarter. 

Paul George led the Clippers with 22 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 15 points and eight rebounds. James Harden had15 points and nine assists in his first game against the Lakers since getting traded to the Clippers.

The Clippers (22-13) handed the Lakers (18-19) their fourth win in 14 games since they claimed the NBA’s Inaugural In-Season Tournament. 

Despite the 3-point loss, the Clippers finished 14-3 in their last 17 games. George, who spoke to reporters following the loss, remained transparent on how that kind of momentum moves forward.   

“This game was very winnable. We know this game doesn’t show who we are in any way,” stated George. “We know who we are. This was just a rough one for us.”

Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s action:

Kawhi Leonard benched in the clutch

Kawhi Leonard, who has been playing some career-defining minutes, had an uncharacteristic shooting game, scoring 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting. With 2:47 left in the final quarter of a close bout, Clippers head coach Ty Lue subbed in Terance Mann for Leonard.

“He was close to his minutes with the restriction and we have a back to back tomorrow and a 5-in-8,” Lue shared with reporters after the game. 

Leonard returned to the court at the 17 second mark, but didn’t get to see a win (or overtime) in the end. 

“I would love to be on the floor and play, but it is what it is,” Leonard replied. “We have more games to play. That’s how it rolled out tonight.”

Clipper Nation can expect to see Kawhi Leonard play in Monday’s back-to-back, according to Lue.

Clippers endure turnover and shooting woes

According to Law Murray of The Athletic, Sunday marks just the second game this year that the Clippers shot under 40% from the field. They finished at 39.6% compared to the Lakers 51.2% on Sunday, but back in James Harden’s 2nd game as a Clipper against Brooklyn they finished at the same 39.6%.

The Lakers also held the Clippers (who own one of the best offensive ratings since Dec. 1) to less than 30 points across three straight quarters. 

Outside of shooting, turnovers also proved to be costly for the Clippers Sunday. 

James Harden, George and Leonard had a combined 11 turnovers to contribute to the team’s collective 16 on the night. Nine of those 16 came in just the third quarter alone.

Ivica Zubac marks his 100th double-double

The former Laker dominated over his prior club as he led the Clippers with 22 points and 19 rebounds for his 100th double-double, per the LA Clippers Twitter page. Fourteen of those points and seven rebounds came in just the first half. 

Zubac dominated at the rim as the 7-foot center went 9-13 in field goals, all of which were in the paint. To top the night off, the Croatia native passed Randy Smith for ninth on the Clippers all-time rebounds list.

Next up, the Clippers will host Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns Monday evening in Los Angeles.