Rid of his facial protection which had bothered him for several matches, following a nudge from his teammate Serge Ibaka to the mouth, Kawhi Leonard regained all his sensations to allow the LA Clippers to overcome the Chicago Bulls (130-127), Sunday evening.
Two days after his team’s embarrassing loss to Golden State after squandering 20 points in advance, he set an example in the third quarter, scoring 21 of his 35 points (7/9 behind the arc) , to exceed the 10,000 mark since the start of his career. A performance he soberly attributed “Hard work and dedication”.
“I get involved every day and I have my mind set on a goal”, commented the one who is seeking a third league title after those won in 2014 with San Antonio and 2019 with Toronto. Opposite, Zach LaVine’s 45 points (10/15 at long distance) were in vain.
The Lakers take the lead
Carried by the address (27 points, 9/12 on shots) of Anthony Davis, the other franchise of Los Angeles won without forcing in Houston (120-102), where the match was folded at the break (19 points difference). LeBron James made a full copy as usual (18 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds), not without being scared by receiving a blow to the head from DeMarcus Cousins, excluded for this technical foul, the second after a first consecutive to an altercation with Markieff Morris.
With this eighth success in 11 games, the Lakers are back in first position in the West ahead of Phoenix. The Rockets, where James Harden was limited to 20 points (9 assists) still do not take off (13th).
The Los Angeles Lakers are making a start to the season worthy of their 2020 champion status (N. Chenault / Presse Sports)
Thunder rumbles over Brooklyn
For his reunion with the Thunder, where he played eight seasons, Kevin Durant could not prevent the defeat of the Nets on their floor (129-116). Back after ten days of quarantine (contact case), he nevertheless shone (36 points, 11 rebounds) in the persistent absence of the leader Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn, whose record returns to negative (5 wins, 6 losses), sank in the third quarter (37-18). His defensive largesse benefited Shai Gilgeous Alexander (31 points to 11/16, 7 assists) and rookie Hamidou Diallo (25 points) off the bench.
Also in New York, the Knicks conceded their second straight defeat against Denver (114-89). And it was easy, since the Nuggets, where Nikola Jokic, untenable at the moment, was still the most prominent (22 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), had 21 lengths ahead at halftime, without their opponents then reducing it. NY side, only Julius Randle (29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) floated. Both teams have the same balance sheet (5-5).
The Warriors muzzle the Raptors
The remake of the 2019 final turned to the advantage (106-105) of Golden State at the expense of Toronto. Cameroonian winger Pascal Siakam, author of a solid performance (25 points, 11 rebounds) saw his attempt at the buzzer fail by nothing. Frustrating for the Raptors, beaten for the seventh time in nine games. For the Warriors, this sixth victory (4 losses) was all the more difficult to obtain as Stephen Curry went through (2/16 on shots, 11 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists), but their collective works well.
Finally, in Detroit, a cannon first quarter (34-19), in the wake of Donovan Mitchell (28 points) and a defensive tightening in the money-time around Rudy Gobert (19 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 points) allowed Utah to contain the Detroit Pistons (96-86). This success keeps the Salt Lake City franchise (6-4) at the top of the standings in the West.