Red-hot Kawhi Leonard dunks help Clippers beat Raptors

Eyes on the rim, feet on the strip Kawhi Leonard put himself on a free throw for Clippers on Wednesday night against Toronto when a yell erupted from Section 112 inside the Arena.

“Thanks for the banner!” shouted a number of fans in Toronto jerseys.

In an age where superstars don’t stick around for long, Leonard’s departure from Toronto just weeks after winning the 2019 NBA championship to Los Angeles and the Clippers could feel like an eternity in the NBA. But that run and the trail it left are still visible today.

Before Clippers win 108-100, Toronto coach Nick Nurse recalled that Leonard “boosted a lot of people’s confidence and their game” during his only season with the Raptors. “Leonard’s ability to make minute defensive adjustments during a timeout or a free throw” was amazing, Nurse said. And he thanked Leonard for making Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Toronto’s Fred VanVleet their own stars.

“Kawai worked from 9 to 5, maybe 8:30 to 4:30 every day. Pascal is the same,” said Nanny. “He is the first guy in the gym. Him and Freddie, every morning. They learned a lot during the working day. Not just shooting, all day shooting, food, care, weight lifting, stretching, hot bath, cold bath, everything. And Kawai did it all without blinking an eye.”

This is the version of Leonard that the Clippers have seen since January. 8, a dominant run that took two months to set up, in which Leonard is shooting 48% from three-pointers, 51% from pull-ups, and 59% from 10 feet.

In yet another push for playoff goals, Leonard highlighted the victory over Toronto with five dunks, each more powerful than the last, and in the second half, he hit Raptors center Jacob Poeltle in the chest before his right hand hit the ball. over the big man’s head.

“Even when we were losing those games, we were confident,” Leonard said of the team’s recent five-game losing streak. “And I’m on the floor. Whenever I play, I feel like we can win the basketball game.”

Leonard scored 24 points, adding 12 rebounds.

“The last streak he’s had since January was incredible, it was one of the highest levels I’ve ever seen, and we need him to play in such a way that he succeeds every night,” said the Clippers coach. Tyrone Liu. “…It definitely gives us confidence on both sides that he can be the elite.”

To get out of a potential tournament position, you need more players who inspire the same level of confidence. The Clippers (35-33) remain in development after a loss-filled first half, with a snarling defense in the third quarter allowing 25 points, less than half of the 51 allowed in Sunday’s third quarter against Memphis. Paul George scored 23 points and Liu thanked him for setting the strong defensive example the team had been begging for during the two days of practice.

“All of our veterans have stepped up,” Lou said, adding, “That should be the plan.”

Paul George of the Clippers hits the basket under the protection of Scotty Barnes and Will Burton of the Toronto Raptors.

The Clippers’ Paul George (13) hits the basket under the protection of Toronto Raptors’ Scotty Barnes (4) and Will Burton (5) in the second half on Wednesday at the Arena.

(Jae K. Hong/Associated Press)

With 14 dunks, one of the oldest NBA lineups looked energetic as they attacked the inside of Toronto’s defense. Defense under the basket of Ivica Zubac was indispensable. Terence Mann’s role as closer, who scored 14 points in 28 minutes, was invaluable as Liu showed confidence in finishing the game without a “traditional point guard” despite pressure from Toronto. Before Russell Westbrook checked out the final half with 17 minutes to play, his small screen adjustment contributions that turned into points were visible, indicating the role he is ready to play in his new team.

But equally notable was that Toronto captured seven of their 15 offensive boards in the fourth quarter and unleashed the series 11-1 in the process. The Clippers’ once-comfortable lead of 15 points with five minutes left dwindled to four with 54 seconds left in the game. The difficult final reflected their troubled start, a lack of consistency that will continue to be their biggest challenge in the last 14 games of this season.

Leonard started the game imitating Toronto’s Anunobi pump, getting him airborne on a three-point line before beating Siakam’s defense help to the rim and dunking. It was one of the rare possessions in the first quarter, ending with a Clippers strike.

After four passes in less than five minutes, including two from Westbrook, Liu replaced his starting quarterback with Eric Gordon. But just 19 seconds later, Leonard passed to Anunobi. A minute after that, Liu took his second time-out of the quarter after Siakam stole a pass thrown by Gordon.

Turnovers led to the fact that a game with a complex scheme and execution turned into a simple mathematical problem. The Clippers landed 25 fewer shots. But as bad as the Clippers were on the ball, the Raptors proved it.
just as inefficient at shooting, only 39% to enter the halftime. They finished 38% per game. This time around, the Clippers learned their lesson in the third quarter by weakening their defense. It was new.

What was missing for both the Clippers and the Raptors was that Leonard witnessed another big night.