LOS ANGELES, United States, Apr 09 – Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 60 points as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Phoenix Suns 113-103 in a Western Conference showdown between two teams playing their best basketball down the final stretch of the season.
George delivered 33 points and Leonard tallied 27 for the Clippers, who recently added some experienced veterans in DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo to help fortify their playoff roster.
Rondo, who came over in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, scored 15 points and nine assists and Cousins, who was signed after being released by the Houston Rockets, did not play Thursday but is expected to add some muscle in the Clippers expected long playoff run.
“We got a deep roster. We are starting to build our identity,” George said.
George, who poured in 36 points in a win on Tuesday over Portland, shot 12 of 19 from the floor and seven of nine from three-point range on Thursday.
“When I come out to attack, I am in a good place,” said George. “Everything else takes care of itself. If I have a scorer mentality it gives me confidence to make shots.”
The Clippers are in the midst of a nine-game homestand and have won eight of their last 10 games.
The Clippers shut down the Suns top player Devin Booker by putting Patrick Beverley on him. Booker had 24 points, Mikal Bridges added 20 points and Chris Paul totalled 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
In a battle of the top two teams in the NBA on Wednesday, the Suns took care of business at home against Utah, with a 117-113 overtime victory.
Elsewhere, Chicago’s new look roster is blending together nicely as the Bulls had seven players in double-figure scoring in beating the Toronto Raptors 122-113 in an Eastern Conference matchup.
Orlando import Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine scored a team-high 22 points each for the Bulls, who are battling the Raptors for the 10th and final playoff spot in the East standings.
The Bulls improved to 22-28 while Toronto dropped to 20-32 on the season. With its second win over Toronto, the Bulls clinched the three-game season series and the teams meet again on May 13 in Chicago.
Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Daniel Theis came off the bench to provide double-figure scoring for the Bulls, who have won two straight after a six-game skid.
Chris Boucher carried the offensive load with 38 points and 19 rebounds for the Raptors, who completed a four-game homestand. It was a career-best performance by Boucher.
“He had a night that’s for sure,” said Toronto coach Nick Nurse. “He was taking shots I don’t think I have ever seen him take before. He had some really good moments on defence too. He is getting to start now and he is getting big minutes.”
LaVine completed a double-double with a game-high 13 assists for the Bulls, who had opened their current road trip with a 113-97 win at Indiana.
Markkanen contributed 18 points, White had 15 and Theis 14 for the Bulls, who have more depth off the bench than the Raptors.
In Texas, Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks posted a 116-101 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks played without two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) for the third straight game and the fifth time in the past 10. Milwaukee has lost two straight games and five of the past eight.
Also, Jimmy Butler scored 28 points to lead the host Miami Heat to a 110-104 win over the mistake-prone Los Angeles Lakers.
Miami also got 18 points from Victor Oladipo who left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a team-high 28 points for the Lakers who gave up eight more points than Miami on turnovers.