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The reason Clippers stars Paul George, Kawhi Leonard set up meeting in San Diego during NBA hiatus

LOS ANGELES — When the NBA’s suspension began in March, there was no end in sight, and talks of a possible season cancellation were very much real. The Los Angeles Clippers, led by superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, took matters into their own hands to continue to develop chemistry on and off the court as the league worked on its epic comeback.

George drove down to San Diego to Kawhi Leonard’s home during the NBA hiatus, he recently revealed, in order to continue working together.

“We spent a lot of time out of the bubble,” George told ClutchPoints in his recent media availability. “I visited him, he visited me. We spent time in the bubble. For us, it’s just more and more being together, learning each other, figuring each other out. The more we’re together, the more and the better the chemistry gets. For us, guys like the ball in different places, they like to play a certain way. It’s just getting an understanding of where he likes the ball in his space and surrounding him. Vice versa. That’s all it really comes down to.”

George and Leonard certainly needed to make up for lost time. According to NBA.com/stats, the duo of Leonard and George only played 760 minutes together in 32 games before the hiatus. When including the seeding games inside the NBA’s Orlando bubble, the duo has only played 890 minutes together across 37 games.

Here’s a look at how Kawhi Leonard and Paul George stack up against some of the league’s best duos in terms of time spent together on the court this season:

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Clippers, NBA duos

@TomerAzarly

As noted in the above graphic, George and Leonard don’t have nearly the amount of experience playing together like their opponents do. George says the NBA bubble and hiatus allowed for the relationship between Leonard and himself to grow considerably.

“Yeah, it has [helped],” George added. “Like I said, we visited each other. I went down to where he was at, he came down to where I was at. We spent time together — the whole group did, not just me and him — on occasions the whole group kind of spent time together through the hiatus. I think we made up a lot of time. While not being together, I think we made all that back up during this hiatus.”

Leonard went back home to San Diego to live with his family throughout the NBA’s suspension. The two-time NBA Finals MVP surprisingly gave a little insight into some of what he and George did in their time together, and most of it centered around working out.

“We pretty much just went to the gym,” Kawhi Leonard said. “When we were able to get to the gym, went to the gym, get shots, talked to each other, know what I mean, to see what we thought worked in games. You know, just talking about personal life, things like that. Just getting to know one another. You know, that could just build a long way from there, just getting comfortable with talking with someone. You could tell them what they’re not doing or what they are doing well.”

This season, the Clippers are 27-10 when both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play. At full strength, they’re 10-1. The opportunities to play together have clearly been slim, but the Clippers were clearly starting to find a rhythm right before the long hiatus.

“I thought right before the break, they were at that same level,” head coach Doc Rivers said of George and Leonard’s groove. “We were 9-1 in our last 10 games. I thought as a team we were getting great rhythm, then we shut it down and I think now they’re starting to work right back into that.”

The good news for the Clippers is that Montrezl Harrell is expected to clear quarantine and rejoin the team Monday morning. The team is hoping he’e ready to play as soon as the NBA will allow him to be free. Patrick Beverley has been dealing with a left calf strain the last couple of weeks, but like Harrell, is listed as questionable to play in Game 1 against the Mavs. Landry Shamet is the third Clipper listed as questionable to play. He has been dealing with a left foot sprain and has missed the last two games for LA.

Kawhi Leonard set career highs for himself in points, assists and free-throw percentage. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.8 steals on 47.0 percent shooting from the field and 37.8 percent from beyond the arc in 57 appearances this season.

Paul George only played 48 games for the Clippers this year, averaging 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals on 43.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Game 1 between the Clippers and Mavs is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. PT.