LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard wasn’t at his best against his former team. His new teammates knocked down big shots and won anyway.
Leonard struggled on two-for-11 shooting and had nine turnovers, but Lou Williams led a big effort from the bench with 21 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors 98-88 yesterday.
Leonard finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to go with those nine turnovers, prompting Clippers coach Doc Rivers to joke about “almost a quadruple-double.”
Throughout the game, Leonard faced plenty of double coverage.
“As soon as I walked across half-court they tried to get the ball out of my hands,” he said. “They did a great job on me defending and sending an extra body. It got me better and it’s going to get my teammates better.”
Last season, Leonard led the Raptors to their first championship, averaging 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 24 postseason games to earn his second Finals MVP award.
“I had a great time there. It’s the next chapter now. I can’t live in the past,” he said. “I’m with a different team and they want to have that same feeling.”
The Clippers shot just 37 per cent but dominated the boards 66-38, led by 12 each from Patrick Beverley and JaMychal Green.
Los Angeles’ bench outscored Toronto’s reserves 56-35, with Montrezl Harrell adding 14 points and 11 rebounds and Green posting 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Leonard’s first five points all came on free throws, including two technicals. He missed his first six field goal attempts and finally scored on a coast-to-coast layup midway through the third quarter to put the Clippers up 62-55.
From there, the Raptors outscored Los Angles 23-11 the rest of the period. Pascal Siakam had seven points and Fred VanVleet added five in the spurt as neither team led by more than two until Matt Thomas’ three-pointer and basket sent the Raptors into the fourth leading 78-73.
“It’s just fun, just be able to compete against guys who you were with last year,” Leonard said. “It’s a little bit more competitive because you do talk to them.”
Not much, though.
“Maybe whispered a little bit to him here or there about missing a free throw,” Fred VanVleet said, “but it didn’t work.”
Siakam had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Norman Powell added 15 points and VanVleet had 14 points for the injury-depleted Raptors, who had their three-game winning streak snapped in the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Lakers on Sunday.
“That’s a great team to play on a back-to-back short-handed,” VanVleet said.
“Just kind of ran ourselves into the mud and give those guys credit, they closed it out.”
VanVleet was one for seven in the fourth after notching three double-doubles in his previous five games.
Toronto was four of 24 from the floor in a fourth quarter that featured a series of mad dashes and bodies piled in the paint on both ends. The Raptors tied the game for the last time at 82 on Chris Boucher’s three-pointer. They managed just three field goals the rest of the way.