The Los Angeles Clippers carry a five-game winning streak into the second game of a weekend back-to-back on Sunday, a matchup against the host Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Clippers kicked off a six-game, Eastern Conference road swing on Saturday with a 120-113 defeat of the Atlanta Hawks behind 32 points from Kawhi Leonard.
It was the fifth time Leonard put up at least 30 points in his past nine games. Los Angeles is 6-0 this season when he scores 30 or more.
Leonard paced six Clippers scoring in double figures at Atlanta. Paul George produced a strong all-around game with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"We're just taking the steps to grow as a team," George said after the win. "We're sharing the ball. We're playing the right way. We're playing for one another, and I think our defense has been impactful. It's starting to affect games."
He added, "When we went through a stretch where we weren't playing well, we were giving up a lot of points. We're starting to cut that down."
Los Angeles endured a six-game losing streak as part of a 2-9 run prior to the current winning streak. The Clippers scored 110 points or fewer in seven of those nine losses.
Leonard has played a key role in Los Angeles finding its groove on offense, but the five-time All-NBA performer has not played a back-to-back yet this season while recuperating from injuries.
If he were to sit out on Sunday, that could be a factor against the best defense in the NBA.
The Cavaliers are holding opponents to a league-low 107.1 points per game on a league-low 39.2 made field goals per contest.
Cleveland allowed 40 made field goals to the Clippers when the teams last met on Nov. 7, and 17 of those were from 3-point range -- more than five above the Cavaliers' season yield per game.
Los Angeles won that contest 119-117 behind George's 26 points.
Cleveland comes into the rematch on a minor slump, having dropped four of its past six, including a 112-100 loss to the host Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. The setback ended a three-game road swing for the Cavaliers, who return home for three straight starting on Sunday.
"We just didn't execute toward the end," Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen said, according to Cleveland.com, in reference to the Thunder's 34-22 fourth-quarter scoring edge. "We weren't making a lot of shots on the offensive end and defensively it felt like we were scrambling all the time. Just a mix of those two things where we couldn't get it."
Cleveland was without both veteran forward and spark plug Kevin Love, and 2023 All-Star Game starter Donovan Mitchell on Friday. Love is listed as day-to-day with a back injury, and Mitchell is considered day-to-day due to a groin injury.
Mitchell, who averages 28.3 points per game, has missed five of Cleveland's past six games, with the Cavaliers going 2-3 in his absence.
Mitchell scored 30 points in the previous matchup with Los Angeles, one of 18 games in which he reached the 30 mark this season.
--Field Level Media