Leonard had 25 points and the Los Angeles Clippers never trailed in beating the San Antonio Spurs 134-101 on Wednesday night.
Leonard was booed during pregame introductions and subsequently each time he touched the ball. The jeers were not as loud as his three previous visits to the AT&T Center and waned as the game progressed as the Spurs gave their fans little to root for and Leonard’s near-perfect outing gave them little to jeer about.
Not that it mattered to the ever-stoic Leonard.
”I doubt it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. ”I think every game is the same to him.”
And it was.
The Clippers won their third straight and 11th by 20 points or more this season, but Leonard only saw room for improvement.
”We’re not there yet,” Leonard said. ”Not there yet. That’s what’s on my mind.”
”You have to have that respect level for every player that steps on to the floor,” Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray said. ”We were more focused on the obvious two, Kawhi and Paul George. We have to know who’s who on the floor and what they are capable of.”
DeMar DeRozan led San Antonio with 19 points, and Patty Mills added 16.
The teams meet again Thursday night in the finale of the two-game set in San Antonio.
Los Angeles remained third in the West and San Antonio dropped to eighth. After winning four of five, the Spurs have lost the first two of a nine-game homestand.
Spurs fans still have not forgotten or forgiven Leonard for his trade demand and subsequent departure to Toronto following his injury-riddled 2018 season.
Fans quickly got to see what made Leonard so special during his time in San Antonio.
Leonard stole the ball on the Spurs’ opening possession, stepping into the passing lane to pick off a pass from Murray and quickly dribbling upcourt to make a contested layup against two defenders.
”He’s smart,” George said about Leonard’s defense. ”He knows how to position himself. He’s longer than you think. He knows how to get in the right spots.”
Leonard finished 9-for-12 shooting, making both of his 3-point attempts and all five of his free throws. He also had seven rebounds, five steals and three assists in 32 minutes.
The Clippers made their first five 3-point attempts in building a 19-7 lead, including three from Morris. Los Angeles would extend that lead to 18 points in the first quarter.
”Just active,” Lue said. ”Disruptive. I thought we brought physicality to the game. Just getting into their bodies and being active.”
Los Angeles shot 62% on 3s in the first half and 56% from the field.
San Antonio was 7 for 22 on 3-pointers and committed 16 turnovers.
Clippers: Lou Williams was 6 for 12 from the field to eclipse 15,000 career points. ”Great milestone,” Lue said. ”Especially someone who has come off the bench for most of his career.” . Since suffering a 105-89 loss in Dallas on March 17, Los Angeles has averaged 126 points in its three victories with an average winning margin of 23 points. . G Patrick Beverley missed his sixth straight game with a sore right knee. . C Serge Ibaka missed his fifth straight game with tightness in his lower back.
Spurs: San Antonio has trailed by at least 10 points in 61% of its games this season and is now 9-16 when facing that deficit. . Popovich does not expect the Spurs to make any trades despite widespread speculation the team will deal one or more of its veterans. If they cannot trade LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio will make him an unrestricted free agent by buying out his remaining contract. . F Rudy Gay missed the game with a sore left foot and G Lonnie Walker IV sat out with a sore right wrist. Popovich said both the injuries are minor and expects both to return soon.