I try to keep the Clippers in the here and now - Leonard reflects on Game 1 heroics

Oleh Peter Hanson 4 September 2020 23
I try to keep the Clippers in the here and now - Leonard reflects on Game 1 heroics

Kawhi Leonard prefers to help keep his team-mates in the here and now rather than reflect on past experiences after helping the Los Angeles Clippers to a resounding Game One win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Clippers routed the Nuggets 120-97 in the opener of the Western Conference semi-finals series in Orlando, with Leonard putting up a game-high 29 points.

Leonard was an NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors last season, adding to the ring he won with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, and is aiming to repeat the feat with a new team this time around.

When asked how he uses his experiences to help his team-mates, Leonard replied: "You know, I'm not a guy that talks about what I've done on different teams. It's just about now. 

"But just giving them some thoughts, like when things do come up, it's about this year and how we can be better as this year's team.

"I guess just taking from what I've seen in the past and just trying to make us be as consistent as we could be and just trying to keep our focus and just having us be relaxed out there."

The Clippers restricted Nuggets dangermen Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to just 27 points between them and Leonard is wary of a backlash from a team that went to Game 7 in their opening playoff series with the Utah Jazz.

"It was just about trying to contest their shots, staying in front of them. I thought we did a great job of that and the other defenders as well, who wasn't in the action, they were on help-side defense, just that's it," Leonard added.

"But that team went through a seven-game series, and I'm sure they will come back more prepared for Game 2."

The Clippers were boosted by the return of Patrick Beverley from a calf injury, marking just the 13th time throughout this season the team have had their first-choice rotation available.

Beverley – who missed five straight games and 10 of the previous 11 – played just 12 minutes but his willingness to bark out instructions and make his voice heard on the court was felt.

"When you're out with an injury, just watching it, I was humbled," said Beverley. "I'm just fortunate to be out there.

"You can't take health for granted. It's really important. But it was good going out there with my brothers, man, competing, playing the type of ball we do. It was fun tonight, for sure.

"I take my role very seriously. Obviously, I'm the point guard, getting guys put in places offensively and make sure I'm doing my job defensively.

"Sitting out with this injury has definitely humbled me, man. I appreciate the game a lot more, for sure."

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Peter Hanson