MIAMI (AP) — Kawhi Leonard has two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, four All-Star selections and a string of other accolades. And now, one triple-double.
Unbelievable as it sounds — and really, the Miami Heat could not believe it — Leonard got a triple-double for the first time yesterday. He scored 26 of his 33 points after halftime, finished with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and carried the Los Angeles Clippers past the Heat 122-117.
“What do you mean, first triple-double? Of his career? Wow,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That is a surprise. He’s as complete a player (as there is) in this league.”
Leonard actually got the triple-double twice. He had it in the third quarter, briefly: What was originally his 10th rebound was taken away after the stat crew gave one play a closer review. He then got it for real on a rebound with 3:55 remaining.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was given the game ball in the locker room afterward, then dribbled it once before flipping it to Leonard as a keepsake. Leonard raised it over his head, then smiled as teammates applauded.
“It’s because of y’all,” Leonard told teammates. “Y’all made shots. So that’s all a triple-double is.”
And even with his big night, the Clippers — who dug their way out of a 15-point early hole and finished the third quarter on a 15-0 run to take control — had to hang on in the final moments.
Miami was down by 18 with 8:34 left, then went on a 24-9 run and got within three on a 3-pointer by Dion Waiters with 34 seconds remaining. But they got no closer, and Leonard sealed it by going four for four from the foul line in the final moments.
Rivers lauded Leonard for patiently waiting out Miami’s trapping schemes.
“It’s like he was a boxer,” Rivers said. “He just kind of took his time until he could throw punches.”
Landry Shamet scored 22 points for the Clippers. Lou Williams had 16 points, Montrezl Harrell added 15 and JaMychal Green 14.
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 20 points. Butler left midway through the fourth after appearing to turn his right ankle for the second time in the game, capping a night when he also got inadvertently popped in the eye during the first half.