When the 2022-23 NBA season started, many felt the Los Angeles Clippers were not only the best team in the Western Conference but also the favorite to win the world championship.
But with Kawhi Leonard struggling to stay healthy and on the court, they struggled to get any sustained momentum going, not to mention establish one of the better records around.
But on Tuesday, they defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 113-101, and Leonard had a strong showing with 33 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 12-of-12 from the free throw line, plus nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Kawhi Leonard with the all out HUSTLE for the bucket 🪣 pic.twitter.com/n8i9xJ3Xdr
— Clippers Nation (@ClipperNationCP) January 11, 2023
The win stopped a six-game losing streak, but it also reinforced a growing feeling that perhaps Leonard is starting to get his groove back.
In his last 11 games, he is averaging 22.9 points on 51.7 percent overall shooting and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc.
While that scoring average isn’t quite what the basketball world is used to seeing from him, it is still a positive sign nonetheless.
If the Clippers, who are currently in sixth place in the West, are to have any chance of making their first NBA Finals appearance ever, Leonard will need to fully return to the level of play he was at prior to his ACL injury in the 2021 playoffs.
But the team will need Leonard to be the Leonard the Toronto Raptors enjoyed when he led them to the 2019 NBA title by averaging 30.5 points per game throughout that postseason run.
It is perhaps the only way it can improve on being ranked 28th in points per game and 27th in offensive rating.