LOS ANGELES — — Kawhi Leonard scored fourteen points as well as seven boards during the first time he played in over 16 months. The Los Angeles Clippers opened a season with high expectations by winning a win of 103-97 against the Lakers on Thursday night.
Paul George scored 15 points and John Wall added 15 in his debut with the Clippers that held on throughout the game to defeat their more seasoned Los Angeles rivals for the eighth time in succession.
Leonard took the field to play for the first time in 2013, and played for 21 minutes during his debut game after tearing the ligament within his knee during an NBA playoff game during June of 2021. Two-time NBA Finals MVP decided to return to a reserve role following his absence for the entirety of the season last year while recovering from surgery.
“My goal was to try to be great in my minutes,” Leonard declared. “Have enjoyable, stay fit and beat the basketball match. Tonight we did it. Only the first game but. There’s a long way to do.”
The Clippers have high hopes for their first title rest heavily on Leonard’s get back to his best. Leonard as well as George are both healthy, as is five-time All-Star Wall who gave the team an instant spark during his debut NBA game in nearly 18 months following his absence the previous year in Houston.
“I was turned up for sure,” Wall declared when he returned. “It felt great, I ain’t gonna lie. … The team has had a new team and it’s only going to take time to get us going offensively, since I (and Leonard) on a minute restriction and with the right amount of time, we’ll be there.”
Anthony Davis scored 25 points despite having less mobility after an injury mid-game. LeBron James scored the same number of points with 20 and 10 rebound during the 20th home debut in his professional career. Lonnie Walker had 26 points during his Lakers debut at home.
The Lakers fell to 0-2, yet came back from two big gaps and remained close to the end despite the terrible shooting of Russell Westbrook (0 for 11) and his fellow points guards Patrick Beverley (1 for 7) and Kendrick Nunn (0 7 for seven) during the Lakers in their home debuts. The Lakers were 9 for 45 with 3-pointers in all.
“We’re getting great looks, all our guys,” Davis stated. “Continue to believe in your abilities. Be sure not to let missing shots derail your confidence. Continue shooting. You must be confident in your shot, and the ball is likely to be a fall.”
The frequently injured Davis caused a bit of a scare for fans when he fell to the floor after being cut during the 3rd quarter. He returned just a couple of minutes later, and played with back discomfort.
Los Angeles Clippers Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac both scored 14 points. Zubac scored 17 rebounds, which included six offensive boards.
Lakers The team that has been plagued by injuries has already four players out of commission with injuries, including the G Dennis Schroder (thumb surgery) and C Thomas Bryant (thumb surgery).
Leonard suggested taking off from the bench until he’s completely at ease. Leonard has played in 447 games in a row during the regular season and 100 playoff matches from Nov. 10. 2013, when he stepped from the bench for his team the Spurs playing in New York.
Leonard said he’s likely to be absent from some of the Clippers two games scheduled for this weekend.
RUSS NOT BENCHED
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has said that he had a brief conversation with Westbrook. met with Westbrook about Westbrook’s claims that he was on the bench and could have could have contributed to the hamstring strain he suffered prior to his season because he wasn’t sure how to properly warm up to play in a reserve position after having spent the prior thirteen years playing as an NBA player. Ham stated that he and the Lakers “would in no way, shape or form put a player in harm’s way.”
Clippers: At Kings on Saturday.
Lakers: Host Trail Blazers on Sunday.