Kawhi Leonard has the best game of the season vs. Celtics; Clippers show how dangerous they can be when healthy
The Boston Celtics entered Monday night with the best record, and best offense, in the NBA, but they were thoroughly outplayed in a 113-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have been a bit of an afterthought so far this season thanks to a host of injury issues, but with the win over Boston, they reminded the league just how dangerous they can be when at full strength.
The Clippers forced 15 Boston turnovers and held the Celtics to just 23 percent shooting from long range. They won the rebounding battle 46-36, outscored the Celtics 14-1 in transition, and snapped their league-best streak of 100-point games that dated back to last season.
In what was their most impressive victory of the year, the Clippers were led by Kawhi Leonard, who had his best game after missing last season. In 29 minutes, Leonard compiled 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists — all-season highs. He also shot an extremely efficient 10 of 12 from the floor and appears to be progressing well after missing time earlier this season due to knee soreness and an ankle sprain. With the win, the Clippers moved to 6-1 on the season when Leonard starts. They’re 10-12 in all other games.
Overall, the Clippers go as Kawhi goes, so his starting to round into form is a promising sign for them. Leonard didn’t pull out the win over Boston by himself, though. Paul George added 25 points, six rebounds, and three assists. While Celtics starts Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been widely acknowledged as the league’s best perimeter tandem this season, that distinction belonged to Leonard and George on Monday night.
The Clippers entered the season with championship aspirations, and those dreams will remain very much still alive — so as long as they can stay healthy. At full strength, the Clippers have one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league.
They have elite wing play in Leonard and George, solid guard play from Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, and John Wall, and a versatile frontcourt consisting of Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac, and Nicolas Batum. Overall, they’re one of the few teams that can match up with Boston physically and athletically, and that was clearly evident Monday night.
The inability to get all of their guys out on the court together has been what has held the Clippers back from reaching their ceiling in recent years, but they have to hope that won’t be their undoing this season. If they can avoid any major injury issues, they will have a real chance to advance deep into the playoffs.
The loss was the second straight for Boston, but it’s far from panic time for the Celtics. They’re on the last leg of an extended road trip and were without Al Horford in both losses. Horford has been serving as the team’s starting center in Robert Williams’ absence. Williams has yet to play this season as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Williams’ absence makes Boston’s strong start to the season additionally impressive. The Celtics just have to make sure they don’t take their foot off of the gas, and they’ll look to bounce back against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Source: CBS Sports