LOS ANGELES — — Kawhi Leonard had 14 points and 7 rebounds in his first game in 16 months, and the Los Angeles Clippers opened a season of sky-high expectations with a 103-97 victory over the Lakers on Thursday night.
Leonard got here off the bench for the primary time since 2013 and played 21 minutes in his first game since he tore a ligament in his right knee in a playoff game in June 2021. The 2-time NBA Finals MVP decided to ease back in a brief reserve role after missing all of last season while recovering from surgery.
“My goal was to attempt to be great in my minutes,” Leonard said. “Rejoice, obviously stay healthy and win the basketball game. We did that tonight. Just the primary game, though. We have got lots to go.”
The Clippers’ high hopes for his or her first championship rest largely on Leonard’s ability to return to elite form. Leonard and George are healthy now alongside five-time All-Star Wall, who provided an instantaneous spark in his first NBA game in 18 months after sitting out last season in Houston.
“I used to be turned up obviously,” Wall said of his return. “It felt great, I ain’t gonna lie. … We have got a latest team, and it’s just going to take a while for us offensively with me (and Leonard) on a minutes restriction, but with due time, we’ll get there.”
Anthony Davis scored 25 points despite reduced mobility after a mid-game fall, while LeBron James had 20 points and 10 rebounds within the twentieth home opener of his profession. Lonnie Walker scored 26 points in his Lakers home debut.
The Lakers dropped to 0-2, but still rallied from two large deficits and kept it close into the ultimate minute despite nightmare shooting performances from Russell Westbrook (0 for 11) and fellow point guards Patrick Beverley (1 for 7) and Kendrick Nunn (0 for 7) of their Lakers home debuts. The Lakers went 9 for 45 on 3-pointers overall.
“We’re getting great looks, all our guys,” Davis said. “Proceed to trust in yourself. Don’t let missed shots take away your confidence. Keep shooting. Be confident in your shot, and they’ll fall.”
The oft-injured Davis gave fans a fright when he crashed to the ground after being undercut within the third quarter. He returned a couple of minutes later and played through back pain.
Clippers: Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac scored 14 points apiece. Zubac added 17 rebounds, including six offensive boards.
Lakers: This injury-plagued franchise already has 4 players sidelined, including G Dennis Schröder (thumb surgery) and C Thomas Bryant (thumb surgery).
Leonard suggested the thought of coming off the bench until he feels fully on top of things. Leonard had began 447 consecutive regular season games and 100 playoff contests since Nov. 10. 2013, when he got here off the bench for the Spurs in Recent York.
Leonard indicated he’ll likely sit out one among the Clippers’ back-to-back games this weekend.
RUSS NOT BENCHED
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he briefly spoke to Westbrook concerning the guard’s claim that coming off the bench possibly contributed to his preseason hamstring injury because he didn’t know the best way to warm up properly for a reserve role after spending the previous 13 years as an NBA starter. Ham said he and the Lakers “would on no account, shape or form put a player in harm’s way.”
Clippers: At Kings on Saturday.
Lakers: Host Trail Blazers on Sunday.