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Leonard leads charge as Clippers cool off Heat

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by Agence France-Presse

Kawhi Leonard recorded his first career triple double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers handed the Miami Heat a rare home loss with a 122-117 victory on Friday.

Leonard, who scored 17 points in the critical third quarter, was named an NBA all-star game starter for the fourth time on Thursday. He now has seven straight 30-point-plus games.

Clippers guard Landry Shamet had 22 points as Los Angeles went from down six points to up 15 in the game-changing third quarter. The Clippers had trailed by 15 at one point in the first period.

Jimmy Butler had a team high 20 points for the Heat, who entered the game with the NBA’s best home record at 20-1.

He also tallied eight rebounds and seven assists before going out with a right-ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

The Heat’s only home losses this season have come against Los Angeles teams — they lost to the Lakers on December 13.

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic had 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 113-106, nullifying a second-straight strong performance by No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

Williamson had 15 points and six rebounds in 21 playing minutes two nights after scoring 22 points in his long-awaited NBA debut. Williamson shot seven of nine from the field against the Nuggets.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry on Williamson’s limited playing time.

“I hear every night that I’m the dumbest coach in the world. ‘Why would I take the guy out in the last five minutes?’

“I’ll live with that knowing we’re doing the right thing.”

The Pelicans dropped to 0-2 since the NBA’s future star was activated for the first time this season on Wednesday.

“I am out here doing everything I can to help my team win,” said Williamson. “I am not going to sugar coat nothing. They outrebounded us.”

Jokic, Michael Porter and Torrey Craig all finished with double-doubles in the win in front of a crowd of 16,300 at Smoothie King Center arena.

Porter had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Craig had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who had a 56-45 rebounding advantage.

Jerami Grant added 14 points, Will Barton had 13 and Monte Morris and Malik Beasley scored 10 each.

JJ Redick led the Pelicans with 18 points, Josh Hart added 15, Brandon Ingram scored 13, Jrue Holiday 12 and E’Twaun Moore 10.

– Coach ejected –
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was ejected from the game in the third quarter for arguing a foul call against Grant.

Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook delivered a season-high 45 points to power the Houston Rockets to a 131-124 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

Westbrook scored 27 second-half points and dominated down the stretch to help the Rockets fend off the Timberwolves, who attempted to rally behind Karl-Anthony Towns’ 30 points.

Andrew Wiggins finished with 28 points as Minnesota lost their eighth straight game.

Houston’s James Harden missed all six of his three point attempts and scored a season low 12 points.