In a statistics-driven era, Kawhi Leonard insists he is exclusively about winning. He will get another chance to show it Sunday at Orlando when the Los Angeles Clippers close out the East Coast portion of their season-long six-game road trip.
Continuing to morph into whatever his team needs on any given night, Leonard recorded his first career triple-double Friday in the Clippers’ 122-117 victory at Miami. It was just the second loss at home all season for the Heat.
With Paul George out for the past eight games because of a hamstring strain, Leonard has made a concerted effort to deliver points. His 33-point game Friday was his career-best seventh consecutive with 30 or more, all since George has been out. The club record is 11 in a row.
His 10 rebounds and 10 assists against the Heat were bonuses in a game where the Clippers needed everything they could get to win at Miami, one game after Los Angeles lost to the Atlanta Hawks. The Clippers were without Leonard (rest), George and Patrick Beverley (groin) against Atlanta.
“I guess it’s a great honor, but I’m just more happy with the win,” Leonard said afterward, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s it.”
Players and coaches on both sides were more than shocked at the news that Leonard had never recorded a previous triple-double while playing with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Clippers.
“People in San Antonio and Toronto must not have hit shots, because it’s unbelievable that’s his first one,” Clippers teammate Patrick Patterson said, according to the Times.
Now comes a meeting with the Magic, who the Clippers defeated 122-95 at Los Angeles on Jan. 16. Leonard had 32 points in that one, which was the fourth consecutive game George missed.
George and Beverley both are day-to-day but Beverley sounds closer to getting back on the court against the Magic. He was a last-minute scratch against the Heat.
Nikola Vucevic had 22 points with nine rebounds for Orlando in the first meeting with the Clippers. Aaron Gordon scored 20 points.
The Magic enter Sunday’s game following a 109-98 defeat Friday to the Boston Celtics, their fourth loss in the past five games. Evan Fournier scored 30 points against the Celtics, while Vucevic added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Magic led the Celtics by 16 points in the first half but couldn’t finish off the victory at home. The loss ended Orlando’s three-game winning streak against Boston, and it came without the services of Jonathan Isaac, D.J. Augustin and Al-Farouq Aminu. All three have knee injuries and will not play Sunday.
Boston scored 19 points off turnovers while defeating the Magic, and the Clippers will bring the same opportunistic style into Sunday’s game.
“If you’re gonna be able to beat that team, you’ve got to be able to play through contact, not turn the ball over and have clean possessions,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “That takes offensive energy and force and we had none of that (against the Celtics).”
–Field Level Media