LA Clippers: Grading Kawhi Leonard’s first game

LA ClippersKawhi Leonard(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LA ClippersKawhi Leonard(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Last night, Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers made their debut against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 112-102 win. Just how well did Kawhi perform?

Even with all eyes on Los Angeles and the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, there felt like a special focus on Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers. Leonard joined the Clippers after leading the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship. His postseason run with the Raptors put him into the forefront of the “best player in the league” discussion.

He was hobbled in the postseason though, so many were uncertain of what to expect from him in the season opener. He had shown flashes of greatness during the preseason but played limited minutes. If the Clippers are to accomplish their championship goals, Leonard will need to be at his best. On Tuesday night versus the Lakers, he was.


The night didn’t get off to a great start for Kawhi nor the Clippers. They fell behind early and clawed their way back to be down only three points to end the first quarter. During that first, Kawhi was only 1-3 from the field but converted both attempts on his lone trip to the free-throw line.

In the second quarter, he really shined. Leonard went 7-8, including one three-pointer. He dropped 16 in total in the second, helping the Clippers to a 40 point quarter.

In the third, he regressed a little but was only on the court for a little over seven minutes. It became obvious that Doc Rivers knew Kawhi would have to close out the game. Leonard did just that, scoring seven more in the fourth. With his 30 point outing, he led all scorers on both teams.

It wasn’t just the amount of points though, it was the difficulty of the shots and how precise he was. At one point in the second, Leonard made seven straight field goals. Just look at this 19-footer going to his right late in the shot-clock. If Leonard is scoring like that, it’s nearly impossible to stop him.

Leonard also helped curb some of the team’s concerns over the lack of a playmaker. He had five assists in the game, third only to Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley. Leonard getting five or more assists is just going to be the icing on the cake, especially on nights when he drops thirty.

Offense Grade: A+

Defense and Other

Known for his defense, Kawhi did not disappoint. He had two steals and a block and the Board Man pulled down six rebounds. As far as hustle goes, he deflected two balls and recovered three loose ones. While it won’t show up in the stats sheets, he did a great job on both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Leonard did not start the night on either in favor of having Pat Bev pester LeBron, but he took the challenge on several occasions. He was active off-ball, getting into passing lanes and was active in the paint. You can see that here for one of his steals. His best defensive highlight of the night came in the fourth quarter when he blocked a Dwight Howard dunk attempt.

The only noticeable downside of the night for Kawhi was the foul trouble. He finished the game with five fouls. It’s worth noting that one of them was an offensive foul which had no reason to be called, but you still don’t want your star player close to being disqualified in tight games. Surely this was an aberration though as Leonard has only averaged 2.0 fouls per game once in his career, back in 2014-15.

Defense and Other Grade: A

Next. What we leared from the LA Clippers win over the Lakers. dark

As far as debuts go, this was nearly perfect for Kawhi. With a win over a tough rival, Leonard got his time with the Clippers’ franchise off to a great start. Facing another strong opponent in Golden State on Thursday, the team will need the same type of performance out of him again.