Paul George found his groove just in time to help the Los Angeles Clippers pull off a 108-105 NBA victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
George, who made just two of his first seven shots, drained four of his last six as the Clippers rallied from a 15-point second-quarter deficit to snatch the win.
Trailing by nine points at halftime, the Clippers out-scored the Spurs 31-19 in the third period to take an 85-82 lead.
After a back-and-forth battle in the fourth the Clippers emerged with the win by three.
“We don’t care if it’s a blowout or it’s a close one – we need to learn how to do both,” said George, who also pulled down 12 rebounds and handed out eight assists as the Clippers, second in the Western Conference, improved to 35-15.
Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 22 points and his one-handed dunk – off a pass from George – put Los Angeles up by two with 1:35 to play.
George drained a jump shot with 13.7 seconds left to give Los Angeles a 106-102 lead, the Spurs responding with a three-pointer from Patty Mills before Lou Williams made two free throws for the Clippers to seal it.
“Defense is key,” said George, who left the game with his nose bleeding in the third after taking an elbow from DeMar DeRozan but returned in the final period.
“I think defensively we got in a nice little zone and offensively it comes down to us making good shots.
“I just found a rhythm,” he said of his own late surge. “I was able to see the ball go down ... that’s all it took.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for the Spurs, but DeRozan, who scored 26, came up empty in the final period.
In Miami, Jimmy Butler exploded for a season-high 38 points against his former team, doing enough damage to sit out all of the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 137-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Butler’s aggressive game helped the Heat overcome the early departures of injured Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard – who had to be helped from the floor with sprained left ankle.
With Boston’s 123-115 victory over the Hawks in Atlanta, Miami and the Celtics both finished the night with records of 34-15 – eight games behind Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee and 1.5 behind second-placed Toronto.
“I felt great,” Butler said. “More than anything I’m super-happy that we got the Dub (W).”
Bam Adebayo added 18 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists for the Heat, who scored 41 points in the third quarter to blow open the game.
In Atlanta, the Hawks rallied to pressure the Celtics late, but rookie Grant Williams came up with a couple of big baskets down the stretch – including a driving layup with 37.6sec remaining that pushed Boston’s lead to six points.
Jayson Tatum scored 28 points for Boston, connecting on 10 of 20 shots from the field including five of nine from three-point range.
Gordon Hayward added 24 points and Jaylen Brown had 21 for the Celtics, who led by as many as 13 before the Hawks – led by 34 points from Trae Young – slashed the deficit to three points with less than four minutes to play.
The Golden State Warriors, coming off a 131-112 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, kept things rolling with a 125-117 victory over the Wizards in Washington.
Alec Burks came off the bench to score 30 points for Golden State, who had six players score in double figures to withstand a 43-point performance from Washington’s Bradley Beal.
Davis Bertans added 19 points for Washington while Thomas Bryant and Japan’s Rui Hachimura – back in the starting lineup after missing 22 games with a groin injury – scored 11 points apiece.
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