The Los Angeles Clippers survived a late comeback attempt from Miami to record a 122-117 win over the Miami Heat.
In a game that was full of highlights, here are some of the key takeaways from this night and moving forward for two contenders in their respective conferences.
Kawhi records first career triple-double
In the 502nd regular-season game of Kawhi Leonard's career, he registered his first triple-double and posted an equal career-high 10 assists.
Remarkably, the feat was thought to be complete before the end of the third quarter, when Leonard dished on a Lou Williams triple with 43.3 seconds left in the period.
.@kawhileonard extends his streak to seven-straight games with at least 30 points, the longest such streak in his career. pic.twitter.com/4BtE7drB2L- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 25, 2020
The broadcast highlighted the fact it was the first of his career, before the statisticians removed an earlier rebound, meaning he officially had to wait until the 3:52 mark of the fourth to haul in his tenth board.
Leonard has always been stong on the glass, averaging 7.4 rebounds over the course of his career, though, it's his distributing that has taken a major step this season. Leonard is averaging five assists per game this season, which is 1.5 more than in any other season.
His assist percentage of 27.2 is a ridiculous 9.8 points higher than last season, while his usage percentage is also at a career-high mark of 34.2 percent, as the talented Clippers offence runs through Leonard.
Overall, Leonard would tally 33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, giving him his seventh straight 30+ point performance.
The dominant showing was capped with a huge triple to keep the Heat at bay with 1:08 remaining in the game, and then four clutch free-throws down the stretch to ice the win for the Clippers.
KAWHI IN THE CLUTCH!- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 25, 2020
📺 @FoxSportsWest | @kawhileonard pic.twitter.com/SS8BlUGtll
Miami's home court advantage is immense
The Heat came into this contest with an incredible 20-1 record at home. The mark was an NBA best, and even though they ultimately went down to the Clippers, the game went down to the wire as the home side refused to go down without a fight.
Trailing 109-91 with 8:56 left in the game, it looked like the Clippers were going to cruise to an impressive road win.
Instead, a 24-9 run was sparked by Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro, who combined for 16 of those points as the Miami crowd nearly lifted the roof off the building.
Dion Waiters DOES NOT QUIT. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/aQY92XypyV- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 25, 2020
With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Olynyk, Herro and the returning Dion Waiters all scoring in double-digits, the Heat were able to stay in the contest as they have so often done on their home floor.
With one of the loudest buildings in the NBA on their side, the Heat have been able to maintain position in the second seed in the eastern conference among a group of contenders chasing the Milwaukee Bucks at the top.
With the Heat, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers all holding imposing records on their home floor, securing home court advantage might be critical come playoff time.
Even in a loss, it's easy to see why Miami will be formidable with home cooking in April and May.
Picking up the slack without Paul George
It was a sluggish start for the Clippers, as they fell behind by as many as 15 points with 5:03 left in the first quarter.
At that point, Los Angeles had only managed 9 points, as they struggled to find the bottom of the net without Paul George. The tide quickly turned however, and the next 17:03 leading into the half produced 54 points, as the deficit was cut to just two.
In addition to the aforementioned monster night from Leonard, Doc Rivers' squad were able to show off their depth and firepower, which multiple players stepping up to carry the load.
Fading, firing and filling it up.@TeamLou23 feeling it with eight straight points in the fourth. (📺 @FoxSportsWest) pic.twitter.com/DbNEGKSHWB- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 25, 2020
Landry Shamet tallied 22 points on the night, finishing 6-for-12 from behind the three-point line. Lou Williams (16 points), Montrezl Harrell (15 points), JaMychal Green (14 points), and Patrick Patterson (12 points) all had big nights off the becnch to pick up the slack without George present.
The Clippers are now 32-14 on the season, good for third in the Western Conference, despite the fact George has now missed nine out the last ten games as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury.
The load management principles of the Clippers are well known, with both Leonard and George managing their way through the regular-season, but for now, it hardly matters, as they position themselves for an assault on the championship.
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