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Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard, Clippers, Hawks

Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard react to monster 22-point comeback win vs. Hawks

LOS ANGELES — Fresh off a drubbing of the Charlotte Hornets, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves trailing the Atlanta Hawks by double figures at halftime. It was another display of the Clippers going absolutely cold from the field and not defending at a high level. What looked like a surefire loss for LA midway through the third quarter became an incredible comeback victory thanks to Terance Mann and Luke Kennard.

The Clippers earned a 119-110 victory over the Hawks Monday night after Mann and Kennard combined for 41 points off the bench, 37 of which came in the final 17 minutes of the game. Together, the bench duo helped LA overcome a 22-point deficit with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“I don’t really have a lot of answers for you guys tonight,” a visibly stunned Tyronn Lue said in his postgame presser. “Just frustrating. Just frustrated early on just by the way we been playing.

“I think our young guys really did a good job just coming in and saving that game for us.”

Mann and Kennard indeed saved the Clippers, but not before Lue initiated a full benching of the starting five following a porous start to the second half that saw Atlanta increase its 15-point halftime lead to 22.

It took the unit a few minutes to get going, but Mann, Kennard, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, and Patrick Patterson outscored the Hawks 32-18 during their nine and a half minutes on the court.

“These guys have been working out every single day,” Lue continued. “They been competing in practice and playing five-on-five afterwards. I just wanted to put a group in to try to change it up, play hard and compete, and those guys did a helluva job. Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Pat Pat, Nico, Amir, they all came in and got us back in the game. That’s what we are looking for.”

Before the Hawks knew what hit them, Kawhi Leonard checked back in to close the game out with 11 points over the final six minutes of the game.

“I think Kawhi saw what those young guys did and what they was able to do in that short stretch, him and PG came in with a lot of life, a lot of pump, and they attacked, they made the plays and like I said, it was something that I think Kawhi and PG said to themselves they didn’t want to let the young guys down after having a performance like that.”

“When you see a teammate dive on the floor just giving their all, it inspires you to do the same thing,” Kawhi Leonard said. “And that’s what they did. They were just still competing, running hard and things happened for them.

“They played well, played great, kept fighting. Made a good run in that third quarter, attacking the paint, getting confident in their shots and they pretty much brought it back for us.”

Luke Kennard made the most of his opportunities once again, this time going a perfect 8-of-8 from the field, including four 3-pointers, for 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in 18 minutes.

“We just played the right way,” an ecstatic Kennard explained. “We played hard and we started to get stops on the defensive end. I remember huddling up with those guys right before that unit came in, and Nic Batum was like, ‘Hey look, let’s get us back into this. Let’s get back into this, a little bit at a time. Let’s go win a game.’ We played hard, we got some stops on the defensive end, and that was our game plan at half, was making our offense available and getting good looks based off our defense.”

One of Kennard’s 3s came on a Euro-step half-court shot to beat the third-quarter buzzer. The shot trimmed a 22-point deficit to a much more manageable eight points heading into the fourth.

“Towards the end of the third, somehow that deep shot went in from half court. I’m like, ‘Alright, you know what? Let’s just keep this momentum going. We’re still in this game.'”

Luke Kennard has scored 65 points in just 77 minutes across the last seven games for the Clippers, two of which he didn’t even play in. He’s shooting 68.4 percent both from the field and from downtown over that stretch.

One would think that after this game, Kennard’s spot in the rotation is all but secure. Even if it isn’t, however, he says he’s okay with that.

“For me, it’s not trying to fight somebody for minutes or anything like that,” Kennard admitted. “It’s just staying ready. Whoever is in there, we have a good team, we have a deep team. Guys that can play. And we have a lot of different combinations that we can use. I trust our coaching staff, I trust what we are doing, I trust our entire team. I’m not trying to fight anybody for minutes, trying to earn something. I’m playing basketball, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, working hard, and trying to help us win in any way I can. If I’m not playing, I’ve been cheering on the sideline, I’m getting us going, talking to everybody and just staying ready. Won’t try to get into that too much. Just continuing to work and when my name is called, try to perform the best that I can.”

The win gave the Clippers consecutive victories for the first time since Feb. 14 and 15.

LA will now travel to San Antonio for a back-to-back set against the Spurs on Wednesday and Thursday. There’s still no word on whether Serge Ibaka or Patrick Beverley will be available, but they’ve been ruled out a full day in advance of games. If they do remain out, guys like Luke Kennard and Terance Mann have proven they’re capable of providing the spark Kawhi Leonard and Paul George need to win games.