Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers have entered the current discussion about the NBA’s best teams.
The Clippers defeated the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder 108-101 on Sunday, earning their seventh straight victory.
As a result, first-year coach Tyronn Lue’s club improved to 13-4. The Clippers and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are tied for the best record in the league.
While their latest victory kept them on pace with Lakers, it also showcased the Clippers’ foundation for success, according to Leonard.
“We’re playing team basketball and sharing the ball,” Leonard said. “We’re having some breakdowns defensively, but we’re staying positive.”
Positive, indeed. In addition, Kawhi Leonard is leading the way with potent production.
Consider: He had 34 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers in 36 pulsating minutes against OKC.
Teammate Reggie Jackson commended superstar Kawhi for his inspired effort.
“He did a great job of just getting us the lead,” Jackson said of Leonard. “They were loading up on Kawhi and Paul (George). They did a great job of attacking.”
High praise for Kawhi Leonard
In analyzing Leonard’s impact on the game, Lue didn’t mince his words.
“He’s been phenomenal for us, and tonight, we had to ride him,” Lue told reporters. “Kawhi had it going so we played through him a lot, especially in that second half and he created points for himself and he created points for our team as well, so we had to ride him pretty hard just so we could continue to keep the lead.”
The 29-year-old forward is locked in, playing at a high level and helping carry a team hobbled by injuries.
In the previous six games, Kawhi Leonard’s all-around effectiveness translated to eye-catching numbers: 31 points, eight rebounds, two assists; 32 points, three rebounds, five assists; 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists; 27 points, four rebounds, six assists; 28 points, six rebounds, nine assists; and 35 points and four assists.
A tone-setting shot
To close out the first half, Kawhi Leonard sank a 3-pointer.
That made it 56-45, giving the hosts momentum heading into the break.
Room for improvement
Despite the victory, the Clippers recognize there’s plenty of room for improvement.
For instance, Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP who joined Los Angeles in July 2019, cited the team’s defensive effort. The Clippers yielded 66 points in the paint.
“Obviously we got the win but down that stretch, their guys were getting by us, it allowed them to break down our defense and play out the closeouts,” Leonard stated, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They got some easy layups, got some open corner threes and they were able to keep pushing. They just ran out of time.”
A look ahead
With their win streak on the line, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers head to Atlanta to open a six-game road trip on Tuesday.