Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell will return to oppose the team they helped win the 2019 NBA championship when Los Angeles Clippers visits Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
Leonard was the NBA Finals MVP and Powell also played a key role when the Raptors won their lone championship. After that season, Leonard departed as a free agent. Powell was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood on March 25, 2021.
Leonard (right knee injury management) did not play, and Powell scored 16 points for the Clippers on Monday in their 142-131 overtime victory over the host Detroit Pistons. Leonard, who has not been playing both ends of back-to-back games, appears likely to play on Tuesday.
If he plays, Leonard would appear in a game at Toronto for the third time since he was with the Raptors. He scored 23 points in a Los Angeles win on December 11, 2019, and he had 20 in a Clippers victory on May 11, 2021. Powell has played at Toronto once since leaving the Raptors. He scored 13 points as the Blazers prevailed on March 28, 2021 — just days after Toronto traded him.
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The Clippers have split the first two games of a five-game road trip thanks to a huge comeback at Detroit. The Raptors will be playing for the first time since they defeated Cleveland Cavaliers 118-107 on Friday to complete a 2-1 road trip.
Two wins in a row
After losing six straight, Toronto has won two in a row, ending the New York Knicks’ eight-game winning streak and the Cavaliers’ five-game winning streak.
Pascal Siakam played a large role in the victories. After scoring 38 points in an overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers to open the trip, he posted a career-best 52 points against New York and added 26 points against the Cavaliers. Siakam was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. In his one season in Toronto, Leonard showed Siakam how to stay on an even keel.
Siakam said earlier this year of Leonard, “Nothing really fazed him. He was just focused on his goal, and his goal was winning. It didn’t matter if he shot bad or whatever, or had a good game, he had the same mentality.”
Siakam showed another aspect of his game against the Cavaliers when he had nine assists. “Just trying to control the game and understand what I can do and (that) it’s not just about scoring,” Siakam said. “It’s about passing the basketball, trying to rebound, it’s about getting my team-mates involved. And I feel like I’m growing in that aspect of my game.”
The Clippers’ victory in Detroit was a roller-coaster game. The Clippers led by 15 points in the third quarter and then trailed by 14 points with three minutes to play in regulation before tying the game at 128 to force overtime. Los Angeles’ Paul George scored seven of his 32 points in overtime.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue removed his starters when his team trailed 126-112 with 3:34 to go. A group that included Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum and Moses Brown started the rally. Mann’s jumper tied the game with five seconds left in regulation.
“You have to give those guys credit for staying ready,” Lue said. “They came out and played with some urgency. Amir and Moses hadn’t played in the game, so for them to come in and produce like the way they did was huge.”
George and Powell returned to the floor with 26 seconds left in regulation. “I thought our defense changed the game,” Lue said. “We were rebounding the ball and we had deflections and steals.”