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Kawhi Leonard, Paul George react to late collapse vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Clippers, Bucks

The LA Clippers held a 100-96 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Then Kawhi Leonard and Paul George went cold as Giannis Antetokounmpo threw down the finishing touches on an impressive win.

The Bucks defeated the Clippers 105-100 on Sunday afternoon behind Antetokounmpo’s monster performance with 36 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and four blocks. Leonard finished with a team-high 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals on 10-of-21 shooting from the field.

The Clippers final bucket of the game came on a mid-range jumper from Kawhi Leonard with four minutes remaining. Milwaukee would go on to score the final nine points of the game, capped off by a big dunk, and hold on for the win.

“I thought when Giannis took over down the stretch, he got whatever they wanted,” head coach Tyronn Lue said regarding the final few minutes. “Got downhill, got into the paint, finished a lot, made his free throws. Offensively, I thought we took a couple of bad shots that shouldn’t have taken. Obviously, I got to watch [the film]. I think PG got a couple layups, he got to the basket, outside I got to go watch the rest.”

The Clippers went 0-of-8 shooting over the last four minutes and turned the ball over once. Surprisingly, only Leonard and George took shots down the stretch, with both going 0-of-4, respectively.

“I thought more than we should’ve just played with a little more pace,” Paul George said. “Down those last four minutes, we kind of walked the ball up. Kind of played a slower offense. We played slow in the half court and we didn’t really give ourselves a chance by the time we got half-court, we tried to set up a guard, like, you know, 12, 13 seconds on the clock. I though we should’ve just pushed the pace — that’s on us. We should’ve just pushed the pace, played a little faster down the stretch.”

The Clippers haven’t played too many games that required crunchtime buckets this season, but in the few that they have, the returns haven’t been great. In games that are within five points in the final five minutes, the Clippers are tied for the worst field goal percentage in the league at 35.9 percent, per NBA.com/stats.

Kawhi Leonard reiterated George’s comments, believing that his Clippers need to play faster and in transition more.

“I thought we came down too slow,” Leonard said. “As a team, I don’t feel like we’re there yet. We’re looking to the sideline for plays. I feel like our pace has pretty much slowed down. You gotta give them credit though. They locked in and tuned in on us and they got stops when they needed it so just for us to get better, I feel like we gotta have a better stride, open the floor, just getting down and getting into a play. I felt like we got stagnant a little bit.”

Earlier in the year, Tyronn Lue said his philosophy was to get the ball moving in the first three-and-a-half quarters before letting Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Lou Williams handle the crunchtime buckets.

So far, that hasn’t gone very well, and it seems Leonard believes more movement is needed.

“I feel like we have good strides in games. Closing them out, making the shots that we need too. It’s just one of those nights. We need to get better rather than some teams come down in the flow or pace and know exactly what they’re doing. Those are the teams that usually win. You’re not thinking, you’re just coming down, getting into a set, but we’re all learning each other, we’re learning T Lue, so it’s just a learning process. Like I said, it’s one of those nights, you gotta give credit to the bucks. They closed out the game, they played well.”

Part of the Clippers’ late game struggles is their inability to get to the free throw line, an issue that’s plagued them all season. Sunday’s season-low seven free throws attempted dropped them to 25th in free throws attempted. Paul George believes the Clippers have done enough this season to get to the line more than they have.

Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, says guys need to place an emphasis on attacking the paint more.

“Just gotta keep attacking the paint. Just gotta keep being aggressive getting to the paint. Other than me and PG, we gotta keep attacking. I feel like a lot of times we come down, it’s one pass, shot, or we’re just shooting off the pick and roll. We have good ball movement. I think we’re attacking that paint, me and PG and then its shots going up, but we’ll get better. It’s just one of those nights tonight. I’m not sure what the number one number is, getting to the free throw line, but we’re a team that still needs to get better.”

Leonard is averaging his fewest free throws attempted per game since 2016. George is averaging his fewest free throws attempted since 2013.

All in all, Sunday’s game was just one of 72, and one that George, Lue, and the Clippers won’t lose any sleep over as they head to Boston to face the Celtics on Tuesday night.

“We just lost the game, that’s it,” Lue said. “We shot 44 threes, only made 14 and I thought we had a lot of good looks we didn’t make. Defensively I thought we were pretty good outside of transition, but we lost the game. OK? All these people acting like the world’s over.”

“A fun challenge, I think we met it,” Paul George added. “Again, some things we could’ve done better, but it’s the reason we get to play teams twice. We get to see them, I’m thinking I guess — I haven’t seen the full schedule — but I’m sure they’ll come to us. But it’s good, it’s a good matchup. Milwaukee is a team that could possibly be in the Finals. We’re a team that could possibly be in the Finals. So it’s just a good challenge. This trip has been a good challenge for us, we just gotta get better. We gotta have some carryover going against Boston.”

The Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks will come to Staples Center to face the Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the Clippers on March 29th.