The shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t overcome the loss of stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on Tuesday as they surrendered a first half lead and were beaten by Atlanta, snapping their seven-game NBA win streak.
Atlanta all-star Trae Young scored 38 points in his return as the Hawks rallied to defeat the Clippers 108-99 at the State Farm Arena.
Hawks top scorer Young, who sat out one game with a back problem, shot 12-of-23 from the field and scored 26 points of his 38 in the first half. He finished a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line.
George and Leonard were ruled out of the contest but the club did not release any details other than to say they were sidelined due to Covid-19 “health and safety protocols”.
“It’s just how this year is going to go,” said Los Angeles centre Ivica Zubac of the Clippers who had not been affected by the coronavirus so far this season.
“We were lucky to have everyone so far. It’s going to be this type of season for everyone.”
The club is leaving open the prospect that the players could join their teammates later on in their six-game road trip which will also take them to Miami, Orlando, New York and Cleveland.
Despite the ongoing global pandemic that has killed 425,000 Americans — including over 13,000 in Georgia — organizers for the first time allowed 1,180 spectators into the State Farm facility to watch the game live.
The Clippers, who entered Monday tied with the reigning league champion Los Angeles Lakers for top spot in the Western Conference, were also missing guard Patrick Beverley with a right knee injury.
Also returning for Atlanta was Clint Capela, who missed the last game with right hand soreness.
Capela had 13 points and 19 rebounds, his third consecutive game with at least 19 rebounds for the Hawks, who have won four of their last five.
“We just upped our intensity and played a little bit harder,” Young said.
Atlanta also got 22 points from De’Andre Hunter, 13 points from Kevin Huerter, while John Collins delivered 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Clippers were led by Reggie Jackson with 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and Serge Ibaka scored 15 points. Zubac and Luke Kennard both scored 13.
The Clippers led 48-43 at the half thanks to an Ibaka hook shot late in the third quarter.
Wall beats former team
But the Hawks roared back in the second half as Hunter scored off a Solomon Hill steal with just under eight minutes to go to make it 86-79 for Los Angeles and they held on from there.
Elsewhere, John Wall scored a team-high 24 points in his first matchup with his former team as the host Houston Rockets earned a 107-88 victory over the Washington Wizards.
“I haven’t played in two years so this is fun,” Wall said. “To be somewhere where you’re wanted, that’s the most important thing. I never want to be anywhere where I’m not wanted and I feel like this organization wanted me here.”
Eric Gordon and Victor Oladipo added 20 apiece for Houston, while DeMarcus Cousins tallied 19 points, 11 rebounds and five steals for Houston.
Also, Royce O’Neale scored a career-high 20 points and Rudy Gobert dominated the paint as Utah Jazz defeated the New York Knicks 108-94 for its ninth straight victory.