NBA: Clippers shake off slow start to down Knicks, Dragic shines as Heat down Blazers

Los Angeles Clippers' Montrezl Harrell (right) in action against the New York Knicks, on Jan 5, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Montrezl Harrell scored 34 points, and Paul George had 32, allowing the Los Angeles Clippers to earn a 135-132 victory over the visiting New York Knicks on Sunday (Jan 5).

Lou Williams, who connected on six of 10 three-pointers, also scored 32 points and recorded nine assists for the Clippers, who had three players score 30 points for the first time in franchise history.

Marcus Morris Sr led the Knicks with 38 points, hitting six of seven three-pointers. R.J. Barrett had 24 points, while Julius Randle added 16 points and eight rebounds.

George, who returned after missing Saturday's defeat by the Memphis Grizzlies with a tight left hamstring, converted five of six three-pointers and nine of 14 shots in 26 minutes. He fouled out with 7min 6sec remaining.

Patrick Beverley also was back in the line-up after missing three games with a right wrist sprain. He finished with six points and six assists.

Kawhi Leonard did not play, as the club held him out of back-to-back contests because of a persistent knee issue.

An 18-7 run allowed the Knicks to cut a 14-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to 121-118 after a three-pointer by former Clipper Reggie Bullock with 4:51 left. They got within three points three times, the second on Morris' three-pointer with 42.2 seconds remaining, but Williams answered with a floater with 18.5 seconds left to essentially put it away.

Like they did against the Grizzlies, the Clippers gave up 40-plus points in the opening quarter. The Knicks grabbed a 45-29 lead at the end of the first by shooting 76 per cent to 50 per cent for the Clippers.

But the Clippers launched a huge turnaround in the second quarter. Three straight three-pointers by Williams and another one by George sparked a 25-6 burst and allowed Los Angeles to take 54-51 lead with 6:48 left in the second. The Clippers never trailed again.

The Clippers, who benefited from three technical fouls by the Knicks in less than two minutes in the quarter, outscored New York 47-24 in the second for a 76-69 advantage at the break.

The Clippers made 18 of 32 3-pointers (56.3 per cent) to 12 of 23 for the Knicks (52.2 per cent).

In Miami, reserve point guard Goran Dragic had his first double-double of the season - 29 points and 13 assists - as the Heat defeated the visiting Portland Trail Blazers 122-111.

Blazers point guard Damian Lillard scored a game-high 34 points and added 12 assists. Portland centre Hassan Whiteside, playing his first game in Miami since the Heat traded him to the Blazers in July, had 21 points, a game-high 18 rebounds and two blocks.

Miami, who never trailed and improved to 10-0 following a loss, also got 20 points from Bam Adebayo, 19 from Derrick Jones and 14 from Kendrick Nunn.

The Heat led by as many as 24 points and hung on to improve their NBA-best home record to 17-1, the best 18-game run in franchise history. It also marks a huge improvement from last season, when the Heat finished 19-22 at home.

Both teams were without their starting shooting guards - Miami's Jimmy Butler (back pain) and Portland's C.J. McCollum (illness).

Butler, who leads the Heat in scoring, assists and steals, was replaced by Jones, who made his first start of the season.

With Butler absent, Heat forward James Johnson - who reported to camp this season out of condition - got in the game in the first quarter and made his first shot, a corner three-pointer. He finished with 12 points in his first appearance since Nov 27.

McCollum, who is second among the Blazers in scoring and assists, was replaced by Gary Trent (six points).

Nunn, who scored Miami's first eight points, helped the Heat go up by as many as 14 points before settling for a 31-19 lead at the end of the first.

The Heat led by as many as 21 points in the second quarter and went to the break leading 65-46.

Dragic had 14 points and eight assists in 14 first-half minutes, and the Heat shot 60.5 per cent, including nine of 20 on three-pointers (45.0 per cent). Portland shot 35.7 per cent in the first half, including 3-of-14 on three-pointers (21.4 per cent).

Portland got back in the game with a 19-5 third-quarter run, but Miami righted themselves and entered the fourth with a 94-81 lead. The Heat coasted from there.

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