LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard more than did his part to make sure the Los Angeles Clippers made quick work of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The All-Star forward scored a season-high 43 points in 28 minutes Tuesday night as the Clippers cruised to a 128-103 rout. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the third NBA player in the shot-clock era to score at least 43 points in under 29 minutes — and the first in franchise history to have at least 40 points in less than 30 minutes.
“We had great ball movement and obviously I made shots tonight,” said Leonard, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter. “The rest of the guys were making shots and they got me in my spots and opened the floor for me.”
According to Sportradar, it was only the second time since 1996 a Clippers player scored at least 40 points in the first three quarters. Lou Williams had 40 against Golden State in a 2018 game.
Leonard had 14 points in the second quarter and set a career high for 3-pointers in one period with four as the Clippers broke open the game. He finished two points from tying his regular-season career high, going 14 of 22 from the floor and 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“His pace was fantastic. When Kawhi is that efficient it is pretty impressive to watch,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Williams added 24 points for the Clippers, who played again without injured star Paul George. They have won five of six and had six scorers in double figures.
“We had the right mindset and the right spirit tonight, both ends playing the right way,” said guard Landry Shamet, who scored 12 points.
Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 25 points and Cedi Osman added 21. Rookie guard Darius Garland, the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft, had 14 points and a career-high 10 assists for his first double-double.
Cavaliers coach John Beilein thought Garland’s double-double and Osman hitting five 3s were some positive things to take away despite his team’s 10th loss by at least 20 points.
“There’s a lot of things we look at and say OK, in any lopsided loss earlier in the year we didn’t have those numbers,” he said. “The only thing we can do is find those growth areas. We know we are in transition.”
Osman’s 3-pointer gave the Cavs a 34-33 lead with 9:58 remaining in the second quarter before Los Angeles outscored them 33-16 the remainder of the half.
The Clippers scored the final 13 points of the first half, including nine from Leonard. He closed the half by intercepting Osman’s pass and going down the floor for a dunk while drawing a foul from Garland. Leonard’s free throw completed the three-point play to put Los Angels up 66-50 at halftime.
The Clippers’ largest lead was 36 early in the fourth.
In a matchup of two franchises celebrating their 50th year, the Clippers wore their old Buffalo Braves uniforms. The team started in Buffalo before moving to San Diego in 1978 and changing its name to the Clippers. The club relocated to Los Angeles in 1984.
The Cavaliers donned the uniforms they wore from 1994-2002, which was fitting since it was 1990s Night at Staples Center.
ANOTHER LA REUNION
Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson gave former coach Tyronn Lue a bearhug on the Clippers sideline before the game. Lue — who was the coach when the Cavaliers won the NBA title in 2016 — is in his first season as an assistant on Rivers’ staff with the Clippers after he was fired by the Cavaliers six games into last season.
“I thought he was going to break him,” Rivers said about the bearhug. “With Tristan, Kevin (Love) and Matthew (Dellavedova), he was excited to see those guys. When they came in it was fun to see how they received him.”
The Cavaliers faced LeBron James on Monday night for the third time since he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2018 offseason.
Cavaliers: Love got the night off with Cleveland playing back-to-back games. Love has played a back-to-back set only once this season. ... Dellavedova scored a season-high 14 points. ... Larry Nance Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the past seven games due to left knee soreness. He was scoreless in 19 minutes with three rebounds and four assists.
Clippers: George missed his third straight game due to a strained left hamstring. Rivers did not have an update before the game on when the All-Star forward might be back. ... Ivica Zubac had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. ... Montrezl Harrell had 12 points and Patrick Beverley added 10. ... Maurice Harkless grabbed 11 rebounds. ... It was the 16th time Los Angeles scored at least 120 points this season, which is second in the NBA.
Cavaliers: At the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Cleveland won the first meeting 114-107 on Dec. 20.
Clippers: Host the Orlando Magic on Thursday. Los Angeles has won the last 11 in the series.