On Thursday, Kawhi Leonard contributed 14 points and seven rebounds in his first NBA game after one year, helping the Los Angeles Clippers defeat their closest rivals Lakers 103-97.
The Clippers defeated the 17-time champion Lakers for the eighth consecutive game in hopes that Kawhi Leonard’s recovery from a ruptured knee ligament will help them win their first NBA championship. In his debut game for the Clippers, John Wall added 15 points to Paul George’s 15 points.
Leonard said on a full-strength Clippers team: “You see tonight, everybody is out there contributing on the defensive end and on the offensive end. Leonard, who won championships with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, played 21 minutes off the bench for the first time since 2013.
“I feel good,” Leonard said, adding that coming off the bench wasn’t a tough adjustment.
“I pretty much do my same routine, keep my focus and tell myself it’s something that’ll help in the long run,” said Leonard, who entered the contest with six minutes left in the second quarter and promptly drained two shots.
Although it was the Lakers’ second straight loss to open the season, coach Darvin Ham praised the team’s tenacity and the play of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and co.
Davis scored 25 points with eight rebounds despite hurting his back in a rough landing in the third quarter, while James finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. As he went 0-for-11 from the field, Russell Westbrook had another nightmare day, collecting just two points on free throws. He did make a defensive contribution as the Lakers overcame two sizable deficits.
“We had a no-quit mentality,” said Ham, whose assessment that the Lakers were “trending in the right direction” was echoed by Davis.
“Our competitive spirit was there,” Davis said. “We did a good job on all their guys defensively. We’ve just got to do a better job of making shots.”
The Clippers led by 15 points after a 17-0 scoring outburst early in the third period.
Before the Clippers once more drew away, the Lakers fought back and claimed a two-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Bucks hold off 76ers
In the other game of the day, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks held off a fourth-quarter charge from the Philadelphia 76ers to win 90-88 in a back-and-forth contest.
With 21 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists, two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo, who helped the Bucks win the 2021 championship, came dangerously close to a triple-double as the Bucks handed the Sixers their second loss of the young season.
James Harden led a Philadelphia comeback effort that included a 13-0 scoring spree and saw the 76ers take the lead at 86-84 with less than two minutes left by scoring 16 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter.