LOS ANGELES: Well-rested Kawhi Leonard scored 18 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 101-107 on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in the NBA.
Leonard’s night off against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday didn’t appear to be paying dividends as he got off to a slow start against the Trail Blazers, scoring just seven points in a first half in which Lou Williams’ 14 points helped the Clippers take a 47-40 lead into the interval.
Portland out-scored Los Angeles 36-23 in the third quarter to take a 76-70 lead into the fourth — when they briefly pushed the advantage to eight.
The Clippers held on, Leonard’s pull-up shot with 2:40 remaining putting them up 94-93.
The Clippers wouldn’t trail again, and Leonard drained four straight free-throws to close it out, giving coach Doc Rivers the 900th victory of his career.
“When the pressure came, we didn’t break, we just kept pushing,” said Leonard, who was the focus of attention after sitting out the Clippers’ loss to reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
His absence, to manage his workload in view of a sore knee, was backed by the league.
Elsewhere, Boston guard Kemba Walker scored 14 points in an emotional return to Charlotte Thursday as the Celtics notched their sixth straight NBA victory, 108-87 over the Hornets.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points and Gordon Hayward added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Walker, who was clearly moved by a video tribute from the home team, connected on just four of 12 shots from the field — missing his first six shots before he scored his first field goal early in the third quarter.
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NBA docks Clippers $50K for Rivers’ injury comments
LOS ANGELES: The National Basketball Association has slapped the Los Angeles Clippers with a $50,000 fine because of comments coach Doc Rivers made about Kawhi Leonard’s injury status.
“The NBA has fined the Clippers $50,000 for statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status,” the league’s disciplinary officials said in a statement on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the league said it accepted the Clippers decision to sit Leonard in the first of back-to-back games. The club’s injury report listed Leonard as having a sore knee.
As a result, Leonard did not dress in a 129-124 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The league then took issue with Rivers’ description of the matter.
“I think Kawhi made a statement that he’s never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. That’s important. But he played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year,” Rivers said.
“So, it’s not, uh, a health thing really. It is in some ways. We want him to just keep feeling better and getting better.”