Kawhi Leonard Leads La Clippers To Win Over Lakers From The Bench

Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season and is not returning yet for the LA Clippers.

This was the first time Leonard did not start with the team in order to make the most of his limited minutes. The team ended up winning against the Los Angeles Lakers again. Leonard scored 14 points and helped seal a 103-97 win at Crypto.com Arena with a 21-foot jumper with 52.3 seconds remaining.

The Clippers won against their hallway rival eight times in a row, even though their best player didn’t play until 6:25 in the second quarter, and only played a total of 21 minutes in three different periods.

“The wait was long,” said Leonard, referring to the time before he was able to come into the game. “But I waited 82 games last year, so 15 minutes didn’t seem that bad in comparison.”

In his first game since tearing his right ACL on June 14, 2021, Leonard was a reserve for the first time since 2013, when he was with the San Antonio Spurs.

Leonard said he decided not to start after looking at data and running simulations in practice with him starting and coming in as a sub. Leonard and the Clippers want him to stay healthy and be at his strongest for the postseason, when the team is expected to compete for a championship. They want to maximize his minutes as he works his way back, and have him play during the most important stretches and finish the game.

Leonard said that if he had started the game, he would have had to sit for 35 minutes, which is too long. He thinks it was the best decision to not start, but they will see how it goes in the future.

Once Leonard got back on the floor, he quickly made two shots from the midrange area, where he often likes to shoot.

First Leonard got the rebound, then he ran the length of the court and hit his little patented fadeaway, according to John Wall. Wall hit 7 of 15 shots and scored 15 points in 24 minutes in his first game since April 23, 2021. Wall said that Leonard’s success is all about rhythm and pace.

He’s a guy who is very focused and works hard on his shots. He doesn’t let anyone else distract him and is only concerned with making or missing a shot.

Leonard shot poorly from 3-point range, but he made some important plays. He drew a charge against LeBron James in the fourth quarter, and he made a jumper with less than a minute left. This gave the Clippers a six-point lead after the Lakers came back from being 15 points down.

“I’ve done this before,” Leonard said of coming off the bench. “This is how I started my career. That’s how I approached it mentally. Act like I was in foul trouble, and once I check in the second quarter, it’s time to play basketball.”

In order to gradually get the ACL strong, you have to play minutes. If you play 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up. However, the doctor and I are on the same page.

Leonard said that he needs to increase his minutes back to around 34.1 minutes, which is what he averaged in 2020-21.

This is what Leonard said: “I will see how my knee feels tomorrow. If it feels better, I will gradually start adding minutes until I can play for 35 minutes. I think I played for 33 minutes when I was healthy.”

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