Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard finally has possession of his latest championship ring, and it does not seem to be weighing him down despite some 640 diamonds and all the symbolism it holds.
Leonard received the ring in a pregame ceremony at Toronto on Wednesday, then then went on to lead the Clippers to a convincing 112-92 victory on his former home court, where much of the work toward an NBA title was done.
“It was great, it was a great moment,” Leonard said. “They did a great job putting it together, having all the players out there that won with me.”
Now Leonard brings his shiny hardware to Minnesota for a Friday night clash against the Timberwolves, who have lost each of their past six games, four of which came on the road.
Leonard has the Clippers looking like a contender despite some ups and downs in the early going. Los Angeles is riding a three-game winning streak and has won 12 of the past 14 games.
On Wednesday in Canada, Leonard scored a team-best 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting in front of a packed house that gave him a rousing ovation before the game. He added six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
“I thought Kawhi was great,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “What I loved about him was that he was patient. He just waited and waited. He kept accepting the (defensive) traps and kept making the right plays. Everybody else started scoring, the traps stopped, and then Kawhi turned it on.”
Paul George had a quiet night for the Clippers with 13 points on 3-of-14 shooting, including a 2-of-12 showing from 3-point range. George was coming off 36-point performance in his own reunion game at Indiana on Monday, when he sank 7 of 16 3-point attempts. Leonard received a night of rest against the Pacers.
Since George made his Clippers debut on Nov. 14, Leonard has averaged 23.3 points and George has scored 23.2 per game, with the team going 12-3.
The Timberwolves have their own dynamic duo in big man Karl-Anthony Towns and guard Andrew Wiggins, but it has not equated into extended success. Towns had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Minnesota’s return home Wednesday, and Wiggins added 26 points, but the Timberwolves merely ended up with a 127-116 defeat to the Utah Jazz.
The Timberwolves were 10-8 on Thanksgiving but are 10-14 now and have a tall task ahead to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat. They are giving up 128.2 points per game during their losing streak and don’t seem to have a grasp on how to stop the onslaught.
“It’s frustrating, because we don’t have a problem scoring. We can score with anybody,” Wiggins said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “The way we’re going to win games, and the way we won games in the beginning of the year, was defense. I feel we’ve been getting away from that.”
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley left the Wednesday game with a possible concussion and is day-to-day heading into the Friday contest.
–Field Level Media