LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers squeezed out another win on Monday night, this time over the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors. Not only did they defeat the champs without Paul George in the lineup, they also did so with 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard shooting just 2-of-11 from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc while committing nine turnovers.
Leonard did finish with 12 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals, but the nine giveaways set a new career high. Lou Williams stepped up with 21 points and four assists, while Montrezl Harrell (14 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, three blocks) and JaMychal Green (10 points, 12 rebounds, one block) both double-doubled off the bench.
Through 10 games, the Clippers are right about where people would expect them to be having not had Paul George. They're 7-3 and still figuring out how to play with one another as the season progresses. Doc Rivers admits he wasn't sure how this team would look to start the season shorthanded.
“[It's been about] survival, really,” Rivers said after the 98-88 win over the Raptors. “I don't know if we've had the toughest schedule, but we've gotta be in the top five somewhere. We've had games with Kawhi out, we haven't had Paul George yet, we knew before the season started that these 10 games would be hard and I didn't know where we would be. I really didn't, to be honest. We don't have our team yet, but to be where we're at, I'm pretty happy with it.”
Kawhi Leonard echoed his coach's statement after the game, confirming that he has also been happy with how the team has come together in the first 10 games of the year.
“It's been good,” Leonard said. “I think we still have a lot to build on. I think everybody is still trying to figure each other out. We're still missing PG, so he's gonna come in the mix, he's gonna be a big piece. He's gonna draw a lot of attention, then we're gonna have to figure it out again and we'll just keep moving from there. I think we've got a lot to build on.”
The Clippers have a plus-5.2 net rating through 10 games, the seventh-best mark in the league. They're holding their opponents to just 43.4 percent shooting, eighth-best in the league. With size being one of the biggest concerns entering the season, the Clippers have done a tremendous job on the glass this year. They rank fourth in the league in rebounding (48.3), as well as fourth in the league in offensive rebounds per game (11.5).
They've done all this without the third-place finisher in the 2019 MVP race in George.
At 7-3, the Clippers aren't winning all 72 remaining games on the schedule. They're going to have slumps, they're going to have bad games, and they're going to take losses. Leonard says it's up to the team to take it all in stride and learn from it on their journey toward improving every single day.
“We’re not there yet,” Leonard reiterated. “It’s gonna take success, mistakes, arguments, losing games, and winning games to get to that next level. It’s about not shying away. We all gotta keep being aggressive and let each other know when we see something out there.”
Kawhi Leonard was able to take that next step last season with the Raptors, and we saw the end result. Paul George is expected back sometime this week, and the Clippers will then really begin to learn one another.
The Clippers are expected to be without Landry Shamet for at least the next few games. Shamet suffered what the team is calling a lower left leg injury, but wouldn't specify what Shamet could be dealing with. The second-year guard left Staples Center Monday night on crutches. An MRI is scheduled for Monday morning before the team takes off to Houston to face the Rockets on Wednesday night.