After seeing 37 minutes of action against the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, Leonard logged 35 minutes and scored 31 points in the Clippers’ 108-101 victory at the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
Leonard had not played in both games of a back-to-back slate since April 4-5 in 2017, when he was with the Spurs. The 134 games Leonard played between competing in back-to-backs was the longest such streak in the NBA, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Clippers coach Ty Lue said Leonard told the team entering the campaign that he was feeling healthy and planned on playing in back-to-backs this season.
“I mean, I think I’ll be playing, pretty much,” Leonard said when asked about playing in back-to-backs after the win over the Warriors. “The last few years, I was injured, and I worked on getting my leg stronger, and it’s been a long time. But I was patient, and I’m able to play.”
Leonard played in just nine games during the 2017-18 season with San Antonio due to a quad injury. He competed in 60 and 57 games over the past two seasons for the Toronto Raptors and the Clippers. He did not play in back-to-backs last season as he tried to strengthen his knee and leg for the playoffs. Leonard said he wasn’t able to train as much in the offseason entering the 2019-20 campaign because he needed time to recover and get his leg stronger after leading the Raptors to a championship the season before.
Leonard, 29, was winded early against Golden State, according to Lue. But Leonard also has been playing with a protective face mask after he took an inadvertent elbow to his mouth on Christmas night from teammate Serge Ibaka and required eight stitches. He missed two games due to the injury.
Lue said Leonard did not experience any lingering effects from playing in his first back-to-back set since 2017. Leonard shot 7-for-12 and had four assists and four rebounds but also seven turnovers against the Warriors.
“Kawhi’s first back-to-back, I know he got gassed, especially the first time out,” Lue said, noting that Leonard and Clippers forward Paul George, who returned from a one-game absence due to injury, were “spent” on Wednesday night.
“Kawhi’s getting healthier,” Lue added. “He said he felt great.”