LOS ANGELES: Paul George delivered 37 points in his home debut as the Los Angeles Clippers scored the second most points in franchise history with a 150-101 rout of the short-handed Atlanta Hawks on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
This was expected to be the first game together for Kawhi Leonard and George, who was making his much anticipated home debut with his new team, but Leonard sat out with a nagging knee problem.
George, who scored 25 points in the first half, converted 10 of 17 shots from the field overall, including six of 11 three-pointers in the wire-to-wire victory in front of a crowd of 19,000 at Staples Center Arena. He also made all 11 of his free throws in just 20 minutes of playing time.
George scored 33 points in his season debut Thursday in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
George, who missed the initial 11 games rehabbing from offseason surgery on both his shoulders, is 21 of 21 from the line in two games.
“It means everything,” said George, who grew up in Palmdale, California, 100 kilometres northeast of Los Angeles. “I couldn’t wait to get in front of this crowd.
“I couldn’t wait to be home.”
Lou Williams, who made 15 of 15 free throws, had 25 points off the bench for the Clippers, who bounced back after losing their previous two matches.
The Clippers led throughout, including a 12-point cushion at the half. They seized command in the third quarter by outscoring the Hawks 38-20 and their biggest lead of the game was 52 points.
Trae Young scored 20 points for the struggling Hawks who have been besieged by discipline and injury problems this season.
In Minneapolis, James Harden scored 49 points on a career-high 41 shot attempts as the Houston Rockets won their seventh straight game with a 125-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Harden shot eight of 22 from three-point range and the team shot 19 of 49 on threes overall. He added six assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes of playing time for his fifth 40-plus game during the current win streak.
“We wanted to come here and win this game and we showed them,” Harden said.
Point guard Ben McLemore carried over the momentum of his season-high 21 point performance on Friday by scoring 20 against the Timberwolves. McLemore nailed a pair of free throws with 1:29 remaining in the third to give Houston their first double-digit lead of the contest, 89-79
Austin Rivers and Chris Clemons scored 19 points apiece for the Rockets, who also received a career-best 16 rebounds from centre Isaiah Hartenstein.
“This game was very, very important for us,” said Harden. “In the first half we gave them too many points, in the second half we locked back in. The guys manned up and got a win.”
Minnesota missed the offence of second leading scorer Andrew Wiggins, who sat out his second consecutive game with an undisclosed problem.
Karl-Anthony Towns tallied 27 points with 15 rebounds to pace the Timberwolves, while Jake Layman scored 21.
Robert Covington chipped in 17 points, and rookie Jarrett Culver added 13 points.
Elsewhere, reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks won the battle between the Central Division’s top two teams by cruising to a 102-83 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Antetokounmpo entered the game shooting just 29 percent from beyond the arc but hit three of his six attempts against the Pacers.
The contest was supposed to showcase Malcolm Brogdon against his former club but the Pacers guard did not dress because of a back problem. Brogdon joined the Pacers in the offseason.
Brook Lopez finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Bucks, who won their third straight and seventh in their last eight games.
The Pacers, who had won four in a row before losing Friday at Houston, never got closer than seven in the second half.