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George, Leonard lead Clippers past Nuggets for No. 2 seed

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Paul George scored 27 points, Kawhi Leonard had 26 and the Los Angeles Clippers wrapped up the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 124-111 victory over the third-seeded Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

The Clippers will face seventh-seeded Dallas when the playoffs get going next week.

The Clippers took control with 13 straight points midway through the third quarter and barely let the Nuggets get back in it.

George and Leonard were big reasons why. George made two 3-pointers midway through the period, and Leonard sprinted to midcourt on a defense possession, picked off a pass at mid-court and glided in for a basket.

Los Angeles took the lead for good with 10 minutes left on Lou Williams’ jumper and steadily built the advantage to double digits on the way to its second straight win over the Northwest Division champions.

Williams was the third Clipper with 20-plus points, finishing with 23.

Jerami Grant, who missed Denver’s last game due to injury, led the Nuggets with 25 points. It was the third time in the past four games Grant, who came in averaging less than 12 points a game, went for 20 or more points.

Nikola Jokic finished with 17 points and 13 assists, but sat much of the fourth quarter as coach Mike Malone chose to rest many of his top line players down the stretch.

TIP INS

Nuggets: Denver coach Mike Malone ended his afternoon media session with a shoutout to another Mile High City team looking to make its playoff mark, saying “Go Avs” as he left. The Colorado Avalanche beat Arizona in Game 1 of their NHL playoff series Wednesday. … Starters Will Barton III and Gary Harris, both starters, continued their absences. Barton has right knee soreness and Harris right hip muscle strain.

Clippers: Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell have both returned to the NBA’s bubble, although neither could play as yet. Beverley is dealing with a left calf strain. … Ivica Zubac had 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds for Los Angeles.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Play Toronto on Friday.

Clippers: Play Oklahoma City on Friday.

___

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