LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard’s long-awaited Clippers debut started with Lakers followers booing his introduction and interrupting his pregame message thanking the followers in L.A. As soon as the sport tipped off, he acquired off to a sluggish begin.
By the point his first house recreation at Staples Middle was over, although, Leonard made all of the noise that mattered. After beginning with two missed photographs and two turnovers, Leonard buried seven straight baskets at one level within the first half. He scored 15 of his 30 factors throughout that momentum-turning tear to assist lead the Clippers to a 112-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He talks along with his recreation,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers mentioned of Leonard, who additionally had 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block. “I feel that is the way in which it ought to be.”
Los Angeles felt very very similar to the epicenter of the NBA on Tuesday evening with each the Lakers and Clippers constructed to contend for a title this season. Anthony Davis made his Lakers’ debut alongside LeBron James and the Clippers unveiled Leonard after years of planning and constructing towards this previous summer time that noticed the group signal Leonard and commerce for Paul George.
Lakers followers, although, tried to rain on the Clippers’ evening as Staples Middle seemed like a Lakers’ house recreation at instances. When the lights went down for the Clippers’ pregame hype video, Lakers followers booed loudly. They did the identical when the Clippers introduced their beginning lineup with Leonard going final. And when Leonard stood on the court docket and thanked followers for coming to begin off the season, Lakers trustworthy tried to boo the person who picked the Clippers over the Lakers in free company.
Leonard paused at one level earlier than speaking louder into the microphone.
“I simply heard a loud noise,” Leonard mentioned of the second he talked into the microphone earlier than the sport. “I used to be simply making an attempt to be as loud as I can. I wasn’t certain if individuals, the Clipper followers have been being loud or if it was the Laker followers. I did not take note of it an excessive amount of. I used to be simply making an attempt to let the followers know the appreciation we’ve for them for popping out tonight.”
Leonard missed his first two photographs and the Lakers opened the sport with a 13-2 lead. However with 59 seconds left within the first quarter, Leonard hit a 9-foot turnaround fadeaway shot. Leonard would hit seven straight photographs, many approaching an array of contested midrange photographs and pull-ups. The Clippers took an eight-point lead into the half as the one one that may cease Leonard through the second quarter was Rivers, who took his star out halfway via the second quarter as he adopted his plan of how he’ll play and sub the ahead.
“Simply made photographs just about,” Leonard mentioned. “I felt like I acquired to my spots early, missed some little chippies however began making photographs. That is what occurs.”
Within the fourth, Leonard scored 9 factors, together with 7 of 9 on the free throw line. He additionally helped the Clippers maintain James and Davis to a mixed 1-for-6 taking pictures within the fourth.
Leonard says the Clippers nonetheless have a protracted solution to go as they proceed to be taught each other’s tendencies and watch for George to return from surgical procedures on each of his shoulders. However just like the Lakers did, the Clippers noticed and felt simply how centered and locked in Leonard can get.
“He was intense,” Rivers mentioned. “You would really feel that. You would really feel the depth. There is no doubt about that. I feel [assistant coach] Ty Lue mentioned, ‘Take a look at him on the leap ball circle,’ the place [everybody] was transferring round and doing all their gestures, and Kawhi was simply standing there. You would simply see, he was like, ‘Throw the ball up. Let’s get this on.’ Ty was proper.”