ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Paul George had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Kawhi Leonard added 24 points and the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Orlando Magic 116-90 on Friday night in the two All-Stars’ returns following two-game absences because of COVID-19 protocols.
The first NBA team to reach 15 victories, the Clippers beat the Magic for the 14th straight time — a streak that dates to Nov. 6, 2013.
Leonard and George were back in action for the first time in five days and the two forwards proved themselves to be rested and ready from the opening tip. They each had thunderous dunks in the early going — George over Nikola Vucevic, and Leonard on Aaron Gordon — and the two of them combined for 48 points in the first three quarters. Leonard and George both played 28 minutes and were rested early after the lead ballooned to as much as 27 points in the fourth quarter.
Leonard made 8 of 15 shots, had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first half and passed to Reggie Jackson for another buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter. George made 10 of 19 shots and 3 of 9 3-pointers.
The Clippers were a plus-27 with George on the floor and a plus-23 with Leonard. Serge Ibaka chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds for a Clippers team that is 13-2 this season when leading at halftime.
Orlando scored the first 11 points of the second half to get within three, but the Clippers outscored the Magic 28-11 the rest of the third period to take a 90-71 edge into the final period.
Once 6-2, Orlando lost for a 10th time in the past 12 games. The Magic’s frustrations showed in the third period when Vucevic and coach Steve Clifford were hit with technical fouls just seconds apart for arguing with referee Aaron Smith over a non-call.
Terrence Ross led the Magic with 24 points off the bench. Vucevic, Orlando’s most consistent player all season, finished with just 10 after hitting only four of 13 shots. Orlando shot 36 percent from the floor.
Clippers: The start was moved to 8 p.m. by the NBA to allow for more time for players’ COVID-19 tests to be finalized and evaluated. The NBA has already had to postpone 22 games thus far — 21 of them coming since Jan. 10.
Magic: Vucevic has potentially put himself in position to be an All-Star again by greatly improving his 3-point shooting. After making just seven 3s in his first five NBA seasons, Vucevic has steadily made more 3-pointers each of the past five years. He came into Friday having hit 52 of 117 3s — easily the most among NBA centers. … Michael Carter-Williams, who hoped to play Friday, re-injured his sprained left foot in practice Thursday.