NBA

Kawhi stars in crucial Clippers victory, Okoro drains last-second winner for the Cavaliers

By Sports Desk March 24, 2023

No Paul George, no worries for the Los Angeles Clippers as Kawhi Leonard carried them to an important 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

It was the second consecutive meeting between these two sides in Los Angeles after George limped off with a knee injury in Tuesday's 101-100 loss to the Thunder, but with the Clippers' playoff future up in the air, Leonard rose to the occasion.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on red-hot 13-of-15 shooting from the field. He was seven-of-seven for 15 points in the first quarter, with his team leading 36-29, but the Clippers began to fall apart as he tried to look for his team-mates in the second period.

Leonard did not attempt a field goal in the second, allowing the Thunder to claw back to 54-54 at half-time, but he came out of the break determined to decide the outcome.

The Clippers' franchise star played the entire third quarter, and the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, not coming out until his side had built a 103-85 lead.

Leonard added six rebounds, six assists and four steals in a dominant two-way performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 16 in his 35 minutes. 

He was supported well by an efficient night from Russell Westbrook, as he chipped in 24 points (eight-of-13 shooting) with seven assists.

A loss would have seen the Clippers tied with the Golden State Warriors at 38-36 in the sixth seed – only one game clear of the play-in tournament placings – but they are now two games clear of the drama in fifth with only eight fixtures remaining.

It was a devastating loss for the Thunder's playoff hopes, blowing an opportunity to move into the seventh seed outright, and instead slipping down to 11th, although there is now a four-way tie at 36-37.

Okoro wins it at the buzzer

The Cleveland Cavaliers secured a 116-114 road win against the Brooklyn Nets in the last second as Isaac Okoro drilled a game-winning three-pointer from the corner.

Cleveland rode the dynamic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley all night, with Mitchell scoring a team-high 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while Mobley racked up 26 points (11-of-18), 16 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

But the biggest moment of the game came down to Caris LeVert and Okoro, as the former Net came up with a loose ball and zipped a cross-court pass for Okoro's three in a hectic closing sequence.

The Cavs have been a disappointing 18-20 away from home this season, but have now won five of their past six on the road.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 39-34 and down into play-in spots. The Miami Heat (40-34) leapfrogged them into sixth.

Magic continue to show progress

The Orlando Magic have quietly become one of the most exciting young teams in the league, and they knocked off another playoff side with a 111-106 home win over the New York Knicks.

It was Orlando's third win from their past four outings, also taking down the Clippers and the Washington Wizards, and their number one draft pick led the way. Paolo Banchero scored a team-high 21 points on seven-of-17 shooting, adding six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Both Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes scored 25 points each in the absence of starting Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, but a three-of-12 performance with five turnovers from R.J. Barrett was hard to overcome.

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