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Clippers match Wizards’ resolve, ride depth to win

The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard shoots over the Wizards’ Robin Lopez during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. Leonard hade a game-high 32 points in a 135-116 win. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

LOS ANGELES — The Washington Wizards have been flexing their resolve of late, but they met their match Tuesday against the Clippers, who won this will-wrestling match, 135-116.

The Wizards, a woeful 3-12 not so long ago, came into the game having won five consecutive games and pulled within six games of .500.

For their latest victory Monday night, they’d rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit at Staples Center against the Lakers.

Returning to the scene of the comeback 24 hours later, the Wizards tried to conjure similar magic against the Clippers, chopping their 24-point second-quarter advantage to five points entering the fourth quarter – a final period that belonged entirely to the Clippers.

“They can score the basketball,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of the Wizards. “Coming in on a five-game win streak, they went small, had a lot of shooters on the floor and they made plays. That’s going to happen. It is a game of runs. We came back and made a run of our own and we went back up 20 again and won the game.

“Just staying resilient.”

L.A. – so hot in the first half, when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to shoot 16 for 22 for 41 points between them – cooled after the break.

The Clippers shot a respectable 10 for 22 in the third period, but Washington went 15 for 20 – with Moe Wagner leading the charge: The former Laker went 5 for 7 for 13 of his team’s 39 points in the frame.

But, as the Clippers’ All-Stars set the tone to start, their young teammates helped bring home the win.

Ivica Zubac – the Clippers’ 23-year-old recent center – sent a surge through Staples Center with a grown-man, serious slam dunk on Davis Bertans that extended what had been a withering lead to 113-102 with 7:52 to play.

Sandwiched around that play? An array of grown-Mann highlights.

Terance Mann, the back of his untucked jersey flying behind him, launched the Clippers on a trajectory to victory, scoring his side’s first seven points in the fourth quarter.

The 24-year-old former Florida State standout also fought on defense and for rebounds and flung a pass to an open Reggie Jackson for a 3-pointer that pushed the margin back to 116-102. He fouled out with 1:03 left, having contributed 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 20 effort-filled minutes that his coach characterized as “very important.”

“When they cut it to (five), Terance came out of the timeout, he had a big 3, he had a backdoor cut for a dunk, and he had a drive for a layup over the top of Lopez, which kind of got us going late in the game,” Lue said. “The work is paying off.”

His play helped energize and elevate the hosts when they needed the boost most, as the Clippers closed out a challenging homestand 4-2.

Leonard led L.A. with 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting, and on the day he learned he was an All-Star for the seventh time, Paul George had 30 points – 25 coming in the opening half.

“Paul and Kawhi did a great job of taking on the blitz and then getting the ball to our bigs, really to Zu,” said Jackson, who had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting off the bench. “(Zubac) made great decisions, whether it was kicking out, getting the ball to swing again or whether it was him finishing if the big went over the top. We played tremendous tonight, and hopefully, we can keep going.”

Zubac finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench – his sixth double-double in reserve this season, second-most in the NBA.

Marcus Morris Sr. added another 11 points and four assists off the bench for the Clippers, who outrebounded Washington 46-36, a difference that led to a 17-2 advantage in second-chance points.


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