If the Clippers are to indeed enjoy the moment and the process as Kawhi Leonard has suggested, the 6-foot-7 forward is the one they should follow while on this journey.
Leonard showed them the way again, scoring 32 points against Orlando to pull the Clippers along to a 122-95 victory over the Magic on Thursday night at Staples Center.
“My job is to just go out and be aggressive, you know what I mean?” Leonard said. “If it’s me taking a shot or creating an action for a teammate. ... Same thing in the defensive end. I’m just trying to bring my team energy and a sense of passion and just compete hard for 48 minutes.”
It was the fourth consecutive game Leonard has scored at least 30 points, the longest streak for a Clippers player since Elton Brand produced four straight games with 30 or more from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, 2006.
In those last four games, Leonard has amassed 141 points, for an average of 35.2 per game.
“Just making shots,” Leonard said about his last four games. “I think my teammates are being aggressive getting me open looks as well, just creating a chain reaction. We’re all playing hard on defense and we’re able to get out in transition.”
Leonard, who was third in All-Star voting (2,973,076) for Western Conference frontcourt players after the NBA announced the results earlier Thursday afternoon, was efficient against the Magic, going 12 for 20 from the field, including four for seven from three-point range, in 30 minutes.
“As someone said before, you can see his health [is better]. He’s in better shape,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s getting used to playing with new guys on the floor and where they’re at. They’re starting to get used to him and you can see it growing.”
Patrick Beverley played another tremendous all-around game. He didn’t miss any of his four shots and finished with 10 points. Beverley had six assists in the first quarter, tying his career-high for assists in a quarter.
He had only one more assist, but his defense on Markelle Fultz was telling, because the Magic point guard was coming off a triple-double against the Lakers on Wednesday night when he had 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Beverley did his part to keep Fultz in check with 11 points on five-for-17 shooting.
Montrezl Harrell was a force again off the bench, scoring 21 points. JaMychal Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
It was the 13th game this season the Clippers have held an opponent under 100 points, which tied them for fifth in the NBA.
“For us, we’ve been looking on the inside, for us to play better and play more consistently,” Lou Williams said. “In this league, it’s different matchups, different teams, so you really can’t pay attention to how another team plays a different team because of the personnel.”
The Clippers had their way with the Magic even with Paul George missing his fourth game with a strained left hamstring, and with Maurice Harkless missing the second half because of a sore lower back.
The Clippers haven’t given a timetable for George’s return, but the 6-8 forward will travel with the team when they start a six-game trip in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.
“He’s going on the trip,” River said. “He’s shooting. He’s doing some work, but other than that …”