Paul George, Clippers seek smooth sailing against Heat

NBA

On track now after a disappointing start to the season, the Los Angeles Clippers will take a five-game winning streak into a home contest against the Miami Heat on Thursday.

The Clippers expanded their winning ways Tuesday, getting 24 points from Paul George and another 23 from Reggie Jackson in a 117-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Nicolas Batum was right behind the leading scorers, hitting six 3-pointers while scoring 22 points.

Los Angeles seems to be settling into a comfort zone without Kawhi Leonard, who is out indefinitely following knee surgery in the offseason. The playing-time chemistry experiment looked bleak when the Clippers were 1-4 to open the season, but George has settled into being a dependable leading man.

When the Clippers were struggling through five games, George was inconsistent. He had a pair of 40-plus-point games, but he also had a pair where he scored fewer than 15 points. During the winning streak, he has not scored fewer than 20 in a game and has averaged 25.8.

The Clippers have also shared the ball late. Over the last two games, their top three scorers all were within two points of each other. And that team-wide approach also has shown up on defense, leading to four consecutive victories by at least an eight-point margin.

“I mean the way we’re moving the ball, we got 25 assists (Tuesday) on 44 field goals, only eight turnovers,” Batum said. “… When we play on offense like that, we’re moving the ball, we’re sharing the ball, we’re a good team.”

Said George: “So many guys are stepping up when we need them. You never know who it is going to be.”

The Heat will enter off a 120-117 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. They not only lost the game, but they lost star Jimmy Butler after 12 minutes because of a sprained right ankle. His status for Thursday’s back-to-back remains in the air.

Bam Adebayo scored 28 points and Tyler Herro had 27, but the Heat missed five free throws and two 3-point attempts by Herro in the final 50.9 seconds of overtime. Miami led 106-97 with 4:45 remaining in regulation before the Lakers rallied to tie it.

“I was pretty pleased with how we were defending and the looks down the stretch,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “… For the most part, in a really competitive fourth quarter, I thought we did enough to put ourselves in position to win, we just couldn’t close it out.”

The Heat will be just three days removed from an emotional game against the Denver Nuggets, when a hard foul from Markieff Morris led to a return shove from Denver’s Nikola Jokic. Morris was fined for the foul, and Butler was fined too for escalating tensions.

The Clippers’ Marcus Morris Sr. offered his support on social media after the incident. While Marcus Morris is out of action indefinitely with a knee injury, the brothers can at least catch up in person Thursday.

The Heat are dealing with their own injury issues – including Butler’s ailment. Markieff Morris did not play Wednesday because of a sore neck from the shove he received, while KZ Okpala (ankle) was out. Adebayo (knee) and Herro (back) played through their ailments.

–Field Level Media

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