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Leonard, Harden help Clippers pull away from Wizards

Kawhi Leonard Los Angeles Clippers Kawhi Leonard - The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points, James Harden added 25 and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away with a big third quarter to beat the Washington Wizards 125-109 on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles outscored Washington 40-19 in the third after leading by 10 in the first half.

Harden’s pullup 3 from the top of the arc stretched the lead to 20 for the first time with 5:42 left in the period. Later, Leonard’s emphatic dunk off a driving, spinning feed from Russell Westbrook pushed it to 25, and Norman Powell’s basket made it 106-79 at the end of the third.

“It was huge, in that third quarter, just coming out with a defensive mindset,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “For our guys to lock in and give up 25 and 19 (points) in the second and third, I thought it was huge for us. It allowed us to get the lead and it was kind of over after that."

Leonard and Harden each had nine rebounds. And Harden hit five 3-pointers to help the Clippers snap out of a long-range shooting slump on a night they rested eight-time All-Star Paul George because of groin soreness.

Los Angeles was 12 of 30 from 3-point range after three straight games hitting under 33%. The Clippers were 12 of 25 before removing their starters.

“I would like if we get more 3s up,” Lue said. “Just how good of a shooting team that we are. Attacking the paint, making the right pass, getting open 3s. We turned down some tonight.”

Los Angeles is 3-1 so far on a seven-game trip, and finished January 12-3 on a day they began in fourth place in the Western Conference.

“We've got the right approach and the great mindset of every single game is similar to where, no matter the opponent, it's about us,” Harden said. “Because we can be really, really good. And the chemistry and the communication aspect is the most important thing.”

Kyle Kuzma scored 23 of his 27 points in the first half for Washington. The Wizards are 2-2 under interim coach Brian Keefe after Wes Unseld Jr. was fired last week.

“I loved our fight in the first half,” Keefe said. “Only down six at the half. They made a quick burst in that third quarter. ... That was the quarter that really got us.”

Rookie Bilal Coulibaly scored 19 points in his second career start and first since Oct. 30. He replaced shooting guard Jordan Poole (illness) in the lineup.


Clippers: At Detroit on Friday night.

Wizards: Host Miami on Friday night.