The Los Angeles Clippers appeared to brush past the latest media chatter Friday with a 122-117 road victory, handing the Miami Heat just their second loss this season at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Earlier this week, The Athletic's Jovan Buha and Sam Amick reported growing discontent following the offseason additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, a notion sparked in part by comments center Montrezl Harrell made to reporters earlier this year.
Friday marked a bounce-back victory after the Clips fell to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. It was their sixth loss to a team under .500 this season and came with George (hamstring) and point guard Patrick Beverley (groin) on the sidelines.
Los Angeles has now won seven of its last 10 contests.
- Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers: 33 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds
- Landry Shamet, SG, Clippers: 22 points, six assists, two rebounds
- Jimmy Butler, SF, Heat: 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists
- Kelly Olynyk, PF, Heat: 19 points, nine rebounds
Kawhi records first career triple-double
On any other night, Leonard's career-high seventh straight 30-point game would be the most noteworthy event.
Not this time. Not with him reaching a new plateau eight years and three teams into his career. Amazingly, until Friday night in Miami, Leonard had never recorded a triple-double.
Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee
Folks have spent so much of this season whining about load management that they've chosen to ignore that when Kawhi Leonard actually plays, he's better than he's ever been. First career triple-double is a culmination of his improved playmaking & passing, once his glaring weakness
Leonard was initially credited with his 10th rebound—and therefore the triple-double—at the end of a third quarter in which he was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. He headed back to the bench, as it looked like the Clippers had the game in hand. Neither turned out to be true.
The 10th rebound was taken away, and the Miami Heat were far from dead. That forced Leonard back into the game to cut off a comeback attempt and finish filling his stat sheet.
With time running out in the fourth quarter, Tyler Herro got trapped on the wing, dribbled to the corner and let it fly. The bucket could've cut the lead back to single digits. Instead, Leonard reached up and pulled down the board.
Butler beat up in loss
There was no question Jimmy Butler wanted to prove just how wrong All-Star voters were to leave him out of the starting lineup.
Instead, he was subjected to a physical affair that saw him forced back to the locker room with four minutes left in the game and the Heat mounting a comeback.
First, Butler was poked in the eye. Then, he tried to recover after rolling his ankle, only to roll it again late in the contest. With that, Miami ruled him out for the rest of the night, a brutal blow for a team that had been so dominant at home this season.
The Heat won't play again until Monday, giving Butler a bit of time to heal, but it's a setback any way you look at it. With an opportunity to hand the Clippers back-to-back losses, Miami let them steal a win in a building few teams have found success in.
There'll be plenty of questions as to how much pain Butler was in after rolling his ankle the first time on Friday. If the injury is serious, the Heat will be forced to continue without their star player as they try to hang on near the top of an Eastern Conference race that's getting tighter.
The Clippers' five-game road trip out east continues Sunday against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center before they fly home for what's technically a road game against the Lakers at Staples Center. That kicks off a four-game homestand leading up to the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
Miami will also face the Magic next, playing them Monday. The Heat will want to take advantage of their time at home, as seven of their next 10 games will take place away from AmericanAirlines Arena.