Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, December 12, 2023 .(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

LOS ANGELES – Kawhi Leonard played in the second half of a back-to-back last season. He is now healthy and highly productive.

Leonard scored 31 points through three quarters for a total of 106 in his last three games, and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 119-98 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory, the longest active streak in the NBA.

“Just being healthy has been good,” said Leonard, who tore his ACL during the 2021 playoffs.

Paul George dove to the ground for a loose ball in the first half and did not play in the second because of a sore left groin. Coach Tyronn Lue said George could have returned if necessary.

“I didn’t like it,” Lue said, noting George’s multiple shoulder surgeries. “It just shows these guys want to win.”

The addition of James Harden gives the Clippers another weapon in the game.

Harden had 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds to help the Clippers win for the first time this season. They have won 10 of their last 13 games.

“We’re stuck defensively,” Lue said. “That’s where it all starts for us. When we’re stopping and getting out in transition, we’re a tough team to beat.”

Keegan Murray led Sacramento with 17 points and Domantas Sabonis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. De'Aaron Fox had 14 points as Sacramento's two-game winning streak was snapped.

The Kings have won five of seven, including a victory against Brooklyn on Monday night, but were outscored by the Clippers beginning in the second quarter.

“We got kicked in the back and that was twice by this team and we had no answers,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “The most worrying thing is that sometimes you just have to fight and tonight we didn’t fight. That’s the biggest lesson from this game.”

The Clippers led 70-48 at halftime, shooting 59% from the floor, making eight 3-pointers and making all 10 of their free throws. Ahead by nine points, they outscored the Kings 31-11, including 11 in a row – six from Leonard – for a 29-point lead just before halftime.

“Kawhi’s main goal is to play the right way every night,” Lue said, “and when we’re not doing that, he talks about it a lot.”

Leonard scored 14 points in the third, rallying the Clippers' last seven to put them in fourth place, leading 99-70. He worked to find his usual spots on the court and the few times he couldn't, he passed it on to his teammates. Leonard made all seven of his free throw attempts and the Clippers were 20 of 21.

Terance Mann was LA's only starter on Wednesday. Norman Powell led the bench with 15 points.


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UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR KINGS, CLIPPERS

Kings: Host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday to open a six-game homestand.

Clippers: host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.



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