LOS ANGELES • The Clippers were resilient and dominant in putting away the Lakers, using the National Basketball Association's marquee Christmas game to show why the city of Los Angeles and the Western Conference might belong to them this season.
Kawhi Leonard scored 11 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter and had 12 rebounds and five assists to help the Clippers win 111-106 on Wednesday night.
They trailed by 12 at half-time, 15 during the third quarter and seven in the final quarter with 6min 39sec left, but they rallied to improve to 2-0 against the Lakers this term.
"We didn't flinch," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Like, we just kind of hung in there. Almost felt like we were bidding our time and just trying to make a run.
"That's something you have to have when things aren't going great. You just got to hang in there, and I thought we did that tonight."
Leonard set a team record for points on Christmas as he became the 10th player to notch at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on Dec 25.
Montrezl Harrell had 18 points off the bench, and Paul George added 17, and the Clippers are 15-2 at Staples Centre and improved to 23-10 this campaign.
"We have so many interchanging parts," Clippers guard Lou Williams said. "We have guys that's going to have big nights. I think I had five or six points tonight, and that's just how this team is built. It's going to be different guys every night."
The Clippers are, however, still third in the West behind the Denver Nuggets (21-9) and the Lakers (24-7), who had not lost back-to-back games all season before their current skid of four defeats.
Kyle Kuzma led the defeated team with 25 points. LeBron James had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and Anthony Davis had 24 points.
LOST THE MIND GAME
They wanted it more. We had a lot of mistakes down at the end of the game, mental mistakes at both ends of the floor. We fouled a lot in the fourth quarter, put them to the line. We gave that one away.
ANTHONY DAVIS, Lakers power forward, on the reasons behind their defeat.
NOT A SEASON-DEFINING GAME
It was one game out of the season. Whoever won this game was not going to win the LA championship or anything. Both teams have got their eyes on the biggest prize.
KAWHI LEONARD, Clippers small forward, plays down the significance of beating their city rivals.
Williams made two free throws to give the Clippers a 105-103 lead with 3:29 to go. It came after a questionable foul against Davis for tapping the Clippers swingman after his transition lay-up rimmed out.
Leonard, who had a three-pointer to cap a 7-0 run that tied it at 101 with 5:14 remaining, then made four late free throws.
"They wanted it more," Davis admitted. "We had a lot of mistakes down at the end of the game, mental mistakes at both ends of the floor. We fouled a lot in the fourth quarter, put them to the line.
"We gave that one away."
The Lakers had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but video reviews showed James touched the ball last after Patrick Beverly knocked it away as James went up for a three. George hit two free throws for the final margin.
"That wasn't the game right there," James said.
"It's a big play and you want to try to get it right, but it wasn't where the game was lost."
Despite the breathless build-up to Wednesday's Battle of Los Angeles, Leonard scoffed at the idea that city bragging rights mattered.
"It was one game out of the season," he said. "Whoever won this game was not going to win the LA championship or anything. Both teams have got their eyes on the biggest prize."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS