George leads Clippers past Kings for 4th straight victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George has notified the Western Conference that he is ready for the entry tournament and hopefully beyond.

George had 23 points, tied a career high with 12 assists and added eight rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won their fourth straight game with a 117-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.

The Clippers are 5-1 since George returned to the lineup. He is averaging 22.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists after missing 43 games with an elbow injury.

“The elbow is fine. It feels pretty good,” George said. ”Overall, I’m just trying to take every possession for what it is and trying to make the best play possible.

“Honestly, I love settling for the role of attacking midfielder instead of a goalscorer. With this team, my scoring ability is opening up passes and plays. It’s easier when I can find guys to shoot baskets.”

George played 34 minutes, his most since returning. He will not play in Sunday’s final regular-season game against Oklahoma City.

The Clippers will face Minnesota on Tuesday in the play-in tournament. A win would send Los Angeles to the postseason for the fourth straight year and a first-round matchup against the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

A loss to the Timberwolves would see the Clippers face either New Orleans or San Antonio on Friday with one more shot at making the playoffs. The winner of that game would get the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.

“We know them well, they know us well, it’s going to be a tough game to get to Minnesota,” George said. “We have a job to do. I’m looking forward to leading and being in that environment.”

Norman Powell added 20 points off the bench and Ivica Zubac had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who led the entire time.

Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Paul George (13) pushes toward the basket as Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (40) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. April 2022 in Los Angeles.

Zubac recorded his 24th double-double of the season and the 60th of his six-year career, but this is the first time he has done it at halftime, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“Defensively we did a lot of good things and got to try some things with the second unit that should help us move forward,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “We had been trying to get Paul to 35-36 minutes so we could build up his minutes for the tournament going into it.”

Davion Mitchell led Sacramento with 22 points and Trey Lyles had 15.

George had 14 points during the first quarter as the Clippers scored the first nine points. His biggest lead in the first half was 20 points before the Kings made a late run to go up 59-45 at halftime.

Sacramento then scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the margin in half. But the Clippers began to steadily pull away again. They went on a 19-5 run in the final five minutes of the third quarter to lead 92-71 going into the final 12 minutes. Powell had 10 points during the streak.

“I didn’t think we started the game the way we should, and then it was an uphill battle for the rest of the night,” Kings coach Alvin Gentry said. “They have Paul George and most of his team back. They are a good team and they are fighting for their lives.”

TIPS

Kings: Damian Jones scored 12 points and tied a career high in a regular-season game with four steals. … Neemias Queta had 10 points off the bench. … Josh Jackson reached 250 steals in his career.

Clippers: Los Angeles was 21-for-43 from 3-point range. It’s the third time in the last four games the Clippers have made at least 20 from beyond the arc. … Marcus Morris scored 11 points despite shooting 4-for-13 from the floor. … Luke Kennard and Isaiah Hartenstein each added 10 points.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Kings: In Phoenix on Sunday night.

Clippers: Host Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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