Kawhi Leonard leads Clippers over Celtics in best game since injury

Kawhi Leonard leads Clippers over Celtics in best game since injury

THE ANGELS – Kawhi Leonard he was looking and playing the best he has since tearing his right ACL and the LA Clippers enjoyed his best win of the season.

Leonard made 10 of 12 shots, including two 3-pointers, and had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead the Clippers to a resounding 113-93 victory over the Boston Celtics at Arena on Monday night.

While this was easily Leonard’s best game since tearing his right ACL in Game 4 of the Clippers’ second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on June 14, 2021 The former two-time Finals MVP said he’s more concerned about how well he’s playing in the postseason than he was in early December.

“I don’t want to be here tonight,” Leonard said when asked how much that exit was an indication of where he stands upon his return. “I’m focused on the end of the year.

“Playoff basketball. It doesn’t matter tonight.”

This game, however, is important for the Clippers (16-13). It’s their signature win of the season against the league’s best team at a time when they’ve been searching for rhythm, continuity and consistency amid injuries and minutes restrictions. With Leonard and Paul George Playing just their eighth game on the floor together this season, the Clippers made 10 of 25 3-point attempts, outrebounded the Celtics, 46-36, and held Boston (21-7) to just 23.1% shooting from behind the arch.

Meanwhile, George (26 points) and Leonard combined to lead Jayson Tatum (20 points) i Jaylen Brown (21 points) for a total of 51 to 41 points.

The Clippers got a reminder of how good they can be with their two stars on the floor and Leonard looking closer to his old self.

“The last couple of games, he’s just playing with more pace,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “The longer stretches have definitely helped him pick up more pace, offensively and defensively.”

Leonard has had a season full of stops and starts. After missing all of last season rehabbing his knee, Leonard came off the bench in two of the first three games, but then experienced stiffness in his surgically repaired knee. He missed 12 straight games and then returned and played in three games before spraining his right ankle. This cost him six more games before his current return.

Leonard has now played in four of the Clippers’ last five games, and the only one he missed was a second straight in Miami last week. With his minutes restricted to 30, Leonard scored more than 16 points for the first time this season.

“It’s the same Kawhi,” George said. “He’s just playing more, getting more reps.

“… More than anything, he’s more aware of his minutes and with a minutes restriction than with the minutes he has, he’s going to make them count.”

Lue said George is no longer on a minutes restriction after he returned last Monday from a seven-game absence with a hamstring injury. George logged 35 minutes to help the Clippers handle the Celtics.

While the Clippers were coming from behind against the Cleveland Cavaliers to snap their eight-game winning streak earlier this season and cruised to a 22-point win over the San Antonio Spurs who showed their offensive firepower in November, this was their best win based on how they played on both ends, from start to finish, against the defending Eastern Conference champions.

“We’ve done a great job pretty much across the board,” George said. “We made great shots. We shared the ball, we took care of the ball. We played defense. I thought our help side, our defensive activity was great.

“Sure, you can pick and clear a lot of possessions, but when you look at this game as a whole, we pretty much did everything we wanted to do from a game plan standpoint.”

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