Houston Rockets' Jalen Green, center left, goes up for a...

Houston Rockets' Jalen Green, center left, goes up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) and Paul George (13) defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in Houston. The Clippers won 122-116. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are sitting out Sunday when the Los Angeles Clippers host Milwaukee in their second early afternoon game in two days.

The NBA scheduled the Clippers to tip off at 12 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday after they beat Chicago 112-102 with a 1 p.m. start time on Saturday. Factoring in the hour lost to daylight saving time, that's two tipoffs in 22 hours for the Clippers (41-21), who decided not to put those demands on the lingering injuries nursed by Leonard and George.

“Very extreme,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s why we’re just so excited to get to the Intuit Dome next year, get our own place.”

The Clippers have shared the downtown arena long known as Staples Center since it opened in 1999 with the Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. The Lakers face Minnesota on Sunday night, while the Kings lost 4-1 to Dallas on Saturday night.

The 17-time NBA champion Lakers are the most popular sports team by most measures in the U.S.' second-largest metropolitan area, while the downtown arena is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which also owns the Kings.

That usually leaves the Clippers with several unfavorable scheduling challenges each year — including regular afternoon home games on weekends, thanks to the necessity of scheduling a combined 123 regular-season sporting events during the concurrent NBA and NHL seasons. Sunday’s Clippers-Lakers doubleheader was the 261st in the building’s history.

Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers was the Clippers' coach from 2013 to 2020, and he never got used to the team's scheduling challenges.

“It was awful,” Rivers said. “I think we did two or three of these (back-to-back afternoon weekend games) a year. It's just not natural. Being here, you get used to it, but it's still not normal.”

The good news is that this back-to-back afternoon home weekend is almost certainly the last in Clippers history.

Billionaire Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will open the palatial Intuit Dome in Inglewood next season, ending a quarter-century of third-choice tenancy for the franchise he purchased in 2014. The Clippers also hope to receive more national television showcases with more normal game times.

The arena is the next major step for a franchise that has already shaken off its reputation as not-so-lovable losers from its long, undistinguished history, which included previous stops in Buffalo and San Diego. The Clippers were a perennial afterthought in Los Angeles and the NBA when they moved into Staples Center, but they've been transformed into annual Western Conference contenders since former owner Donald Sterling was ousted from the league.

Lue's current team needs just one more win to secure the Clippers' 13th consecutive winning season, and the addition of James Harden this year has turned them into a serious contender for their first title. Harden intends to play in both games this weekend, Lue said.

Leonard and George hadn't missed the same game this season for the Clippers, ending four years of regular absences and rest days for the two All-Star veterans.

Leonard has left groin soreness, and George has a sore left knee. Leonard played 38 minutes in the Clippers’ home win over the Bulls on Saturday afternoon, and George played 40 minutes.

Leonard sat out the entire 2021-22 season while recovering from right knee surgery, while George has endured numerous injury absences. The 57 games already played by both Leonard and George this season are both the most they've played in their five years with the Clippers.

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