Kawhi Leonard scores 34, Paul George 31, Clippers put up 150 in beating Wizards

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LOS ANGELES — Coach Doc Rivers called the first play of the game for Paul George and he hit a 3-pointer.

His teammates found him the rest of the way.

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, George added 31, and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled past undermanned Washington 150-125 on Sunday night for their 12th win in a row over the Wizards at home.

“It’s those new shoulders. He’s just a great shooter,” Rivers said of George. “He’s shooting deep shots on the move and doing it with great balance.”

Montrezl Harrell added 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Lou Williams had 22 points for the Clippers, who led all the way in improving to a franchise-best 12-1 at Staples Center.

“Their athletes are long, wiry and strong and defensive-minded,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “On top of that, they can score. That’s a great benefit.”

The Clippers shot 57% in taking a 27-point lead in the first half when George had 27 points.

“We just came out a little bit more aggressive as a unit,” Williams said. “We were very efficient on the offensive end. The shots we took a lot of times were ones we wanted to take.”

George and Leonard combined to score 10 of the Clippers’ first 13 points in the third when they led 95-69.

The Wizards ran off 11 straight points to close within 15 in their only major spurt of the game.

From there, the Clippers outscored Washington 19-12 to lead 116-98 going into the fourth.

For the game, the Clippers shot 55%, owned a 66-46 edge in the paint and their bench outscored the Wizards reserves 73-39.

“We’re pretty good once we’re clicking,” Williams said. “Every once in a while you kind of see glimpses where guys are on the same page.”

Rookie Rui Hachimura scored a career-high 30 points and Bradley Beal added 23 points and 11 assists for the Wizards. They were without injured John Wall, Moe Wagner, C.J. Miles and Ian Mahinmi in losing for the fourth time in five games.

Davis Bertans had 20 points and a tied his career high with six 3-pointers for Washington.

Leonard scored 11 of the Clippers’ first 20 points in the fourth. George added a pair of free throws and Williams scored seven in the stretch that extended their lead to 138-107. Leonard and George then sat down and turned it over to the bench to finish off the blowout victory.

It was the second time this season the Clippers scored 150 points. They beat Atlanta 150-101 last month.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.