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Kawhi Leonard hands his old team a loss in his new city
By Jonathan Bassey, contributing writer
Published November 13, 2019

Forward Marc Gasol (33) defends center Montrezl Harrell (5) at the Toronto Raptors vs Los Angeles Clippers game at Staples Center on November 11, 2019. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Toronto Raptors 98-88, in an anticipated nationally televised game that had many fans across the spectrum ready to see how points Kawhi Leonard would put up against his former team and the defending NBA champions. 

“It’s just fun, being able to compete with guys who you were with last year. We grew and grew our relationship and from that aspect, it’s a little bit more competitive because you do talk to them, so, you can tell them we won the game tonight. That’s pretty much it, but I can’t get off of the team character. We have a goal for ourselves to come out and win as a whole, so that’s what my approach is to the game,” said Kawhi Leonard. 

It was a tough defensive matchup for Kawhi who finished with 12 points, as he was swarmed constantly throughout the game. Every possession that Kawhi touched the ball he was double teamed immediately by the well disciplined Raptors. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOqenp5ohQk

“They got me better tonight. As soon as I walked across half court, they’re trying to get the ball out of my hands and sending an extra defender. It’s going to get my teammates better. They’re going to do it at times in the playoffs, and in the regular season, and they’re going to knock down the wide open shot, and that’s what wins games, open shots,” emphasized Leonard. 

The Raptor fans made their presence felt early in the as each shot, dunk, and steal by their team had Staples Center electrified with a playoff atmosphere. At a moment in the second quarter Raptor fans broke out in “MVP” chants for Pascal Siakam. 

With 9:10 to go in the second quarter Ivica Zubac rose up for a strong layup giving the Clippers their first lead of the game since 7:12 in the first quarter. The first quarter ended 23-15 as Chris Boucher nailed a three pointer with 20 seconds left in the quarter for the Raptors eight point cushion. 

 

Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers got his team motivated to start the second quarter and it showed, the Clippers won the quarter by 13 points to proceeding into halftime with a 51-46 lead. 

Once again the former Raptor was quiet for another 12 minutes throughout the quarter. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell both tallied eight points in the quarter and have done what they consistently have been doing throughout the first 10 games of the season, providing offensive depth off the bench. 

The Clippers converted back to their with seven turnovers in the third quarter leading to 11 points for the Raptors. Kawhi had three uncharacteristic turnovers in the quarter that played a large part in the defending champions outscoring the Clippers by 10 points heading to the fourth quarter. 

Forward Kawhi Leonard (2) scored 12 points and 11 rebounds during the Toronto Raptors vs Los Angeles Clippers game at Staples Center on November 11, 2019. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

“That is who they are. That is their DNA, so no. They play like that way every night. Last night they scrapped a win and tonight they were trying to do it again. It was one of those games for sure,” emphasized Rivers. 

The Clippers absolutely routed the Raptors 25-10 in the fourth quarter, in large part of the defending champions coming off of a grueling dogfight the night before facing the Los Angeles Lakers. Williams scored a game-high 21 points and brought the Clippers across the finish line on a night where Kawhi didn’t have his best stuff.  

The inside presence of Harrell has been a large factor in helping the Clippers squeak out close games late, and panned out in their favor once again in the fourth quarter. Harrell cleaned the glass with six rebounds in the fourth and two monstrous blocked shots in the quarter on Fred VanVleet, one late in the game shifting the momentum in the Clippers favor. 

“I definitely thought our size defensively was a major factor. They are usually the longest team and tonight, they felt a team that was longer. It was one of those nights. Clearly playing back-to-back, even though there was no travel involved, is very difficult. That is why we keep trying to cut [back-to-backs] out. It is very hard on coaches,” said Doc Rivers. 

 

The Clippers (7-3) will face the Rockets (7-3) in Houston on Wednesday at 4:30 pm, on the first night of a back-to-back and Kawhi Leonard’s load management will once again be the topic of conversation.

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