LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard scored 38 points and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 106-95 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Paul George added 22 points for the Clippers, who have won their last three games after dropping five straight.
“It feels good to be on a winning streak and play well,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I knew we made some changes (near last month’s trade deadline) and it was going to take time. We have played well in some of those earlier games and not get the win.”
It was Leonard’s seventh straight game with at least 21 points, and he’s averaging 31 points during that stretch. He also has four 30-point games during that span.
“I got some open looks in the third quarter,” said Leonard, who scored 19 in the third quarter, including three 3-pointers. “You know, started off attacking the basket, ended up getting that and-one. And then from there, just shot the ball with confidence.”
Besides Leonard’s hot play, the other difference the past two games has been the Clippers playing better defense. New York shot 32 of 90 from the field, marking the first time this season the Clippers have held teams under 40% in two straight games.
“I think when Kawhi and PG are locking into the other teams best players and taking that challenge, when they’re playing at a high level defensively,” Lue said, “you know we’re a different team.”
Immanuel Quickley had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who have dropped three straight after a nine-game winning streak. Quickley started in place of Jalen Brunson, who was sidelined with a sore left foot.
Julius Randle scored 19 despite shooting 5 of 24.
“I thought we played really well in the first half and for the most part played well in the third quarter, I didn’t like the way we started the fourth, and right now our margin of error is small,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to understand that the intensity of the fourth quarter is different. So be ready to handle that.”
New York had a 74-73 lead late in the third quarter before the Clippers scored nine straight points to take control.
The run started when Randle was assessed a technical foul with 0.3 seconds remaining after he elbowed Clippers center Mason Plumlee in the face while both were going for a rebound.
Leonard tied it by making the technical shot and Plumlee converted the next two free throws to give the Clippers a 76-74 advantage going into the final 12 minutes.
Los Angeles extended their lead to 14 with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth.
Thibodeau said Brunson is day-to-day and X-rays were negative. Brunson has missed three of the past four games after being injured during a win on March 3 over Miami.
“We definitely miss having him on the floor, but we’ve got to figure it out and figure out how to get these wins,” guard RJ Barrett said. “We will figure it out somehow, you know what I mean, try to get easier wins and stay like that.”
Russell Westbrook passed Isiah Thomas for ninth on the NBA’s career assists list. Westbrook has 9,062 during his 15-year career.
“It’s great as a point guard like myself, the different conversations that I’ve had to overcome over my career to be on this side of it. It’s a special thing,” Westbrook said.