The Los Angeles Clippers claimed Christmas Day honours as neighbours the Los Angeles Lakers crashed to their fourth consecutive defeat in the NBA.

Kawhi Leonard starred with 35 points to lead the Clippers past the slumping Lakers 111-106 in the battle of LA on Wednesday.

Leonard scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and added 12 rebounds as the Clippers beat the Lakers for the second time this season, having also won on opening night.

The Lakers (24-7) led 63-51 at half-time but were outscored 60-43 by the Clippers (23-10) in the second half in Los Angeles.

Montrezl Harrell posted 18 points off the bench and Clippers team-mate Paul George contributed 17 at Staples Center midweek.

LeBron James, who returned from a muscle strain, put up 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the beaten Lakers, while Kyle Kuzma led the way with his 25 points.

 

Embiid takes down Bucks

Joel Embiid was at his brilliant best with 31 points and 11 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers upstaged league leaders the Milwaukee Bucks 121-109. It was Embiid's seventh game of the season with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Ben Simmons added 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown was 10 for 13 from the field and five-of-seven from three-point range for 30 points to inspire the Boston Celtics' 118-102 victory against defending champions the Toronto Raptors. Chris Boucher had 24 points off the bench for the Raptors.

Damion Lee's 22 points and a career-high 15 rebounds helped the Golden State Warriors past the Houston Rockets 116-104. It was Golden State's third straight win. Double-doubles from Russell Westbrook (30 points, 12 rebounds), James Harden (24 points, 11 assists) and Clint Capela (10 points, 11 rebounds) were not enough for the Rockets.

 

Giannis struggles from the floor

While Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, it was a tough night for the reigning MVP. He was eight of 27 from the floor and 0 of seven from three-point range.

 

Beverley says no to LeBron!

Patrick Beverley produced a big defensive play as the Lakers tried to rally against the Clippers. James led the charge, but he was denied by the energetic Beverley.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 118-102 Toronto Raptors
Philadelphia 76ers 121-109 Milwaukee Bucks
Golden State Warriors 116-104 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 111-106 Los Angeles Lakers
New Orleans Pelicans 112-100 Denver Nuggets

 

Spurs at Mavs

After their high-scoring battle against the Memphis Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs take on the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. The Mavericks could welcome back star guard Luka Doncic.

Russell Westbrook led the way as the Houston Rockets downed Kawhi Leonardo's Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 in the NBA on Thursday.

Westbrook posted 40 points and 10 rebounds to inspire the Rockets' win in Los Angeles, where Houston rallied.

The Rockets (19-9) trailed by 15 points at half-time but used a 36-point third quarter to emerge triumphant at Staples Center.

James Harden contributed 28 points and 10 assists – the Rockets star breaking Calvin Murphy's franchise assist record in the process.

Paul George's 34 points and Leonard's 25 and nine rebounds were not enough for the Clippers (21-9) on home court.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 111-104 in their highly anticipated showdown.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's 34 points and 11 rebounds led the Bucks to the NBA's best record at 25-4 in Milwaukee.

LeBron James recorded a triple-double of 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, while Anthony Davis had 36 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers (24-4).

 

Dinwiddie has career night

Spencer Dinwiddie posted a career-high 41 points but not even that could stop the Brooklyn Nets from losing 118-105 to the San Antonio Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge put up 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs.

Donovan Mitchell's 30 points led the Utah Jazz past the Atlanta Hawks 111-106. Trae Young scored 30 of his own for the Hawks.

 

Lakers get nothing from bench

Starters James, Davis, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope really carried the Lakers in Milwaukee. They were the only players to reach double-digit points – the team's bench only contributing four points via Dwight Howard (2) and Rajon Rondo (2).

 

Giannis from distance!

Antetokounmpo had a career-high five-pointers, including this gem from the beyond the arc against the Lakers.

 

Thursday's results

Utah Jazz 111-106 Atlanta Hawks
Milwaukee Bucks 111-104 Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs 118-105 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Houston Rockets

 

Mavs at 76ers

After losing for the first time at home this season, the Philadelphia 76ers have the chance to bounce back against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Doc Rivers hit back after Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James spoke out against load management, a concept the Los Angeles Clippers have used with Kawhi Leonard.

The Clippers have handed Leonard – whose minutes were managed carefully in the Toronto Raptors' championship-winning 2018-19 season as he made his comeback from a quadriceps issue – a number of games off this season in an aim to keep him fit for the playoffs.

After the Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, 17-year NBA veteran James made his thoughts on the issue clear.

He said: "If I'm healthy I'll play. That should be the approach. Unless we're getting to late in the season, we've clinched and we can't get any better or worse, I could benefit from that, but why wouldn't I play if I'm healthy? It doesn’t make any sense to me, personally.

"I mean, I don't know how many games I've got left in my career. I don't know how many kids that may show up to a game that are there to see me play and if I sit out, then what? That's my obligation. My obligation is to play."

When James' remarks were posed to Rivers, the head coach stated the philosophies of the two franchises likely differ because the Lakers' is based on "whatever LeBron says".

"It's our philosophy. I don't know what theirs are. I think theirs is whatever LeBron says it is, to be honest," said Rivers.

"That makes a lot of sense to me. I like what we are doing, and I think it's the smart thing to do. Who knows? We'll see at the end."

Doc Rivers says every play was for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and feels the star duo "came up big" to make Los Angeles Clippers history against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

George had 46 points and Leonard added 42 as they became the first Clippers team-mates to score over 40 in the same game, helping the team to a 124-117 win in Minneapolis.

The Clippers' run of four straight road victories has arrived at a key time, having previously been 3-6 away from Staples Center.

Their latest win took them to 20-7 overall for the season and came without key players Lou Williams (calf) and Patrick Beverley (concussion).

"That was great," coach Doc Rivers said after Friday's win was inspired by George and Leonard.

"We knew without Lou [that] every play was basically for those two guys. And they came up big."

George was involved the last time two team-mates scored over 40, doing it with Russell Westbrook at the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, but knew it was an impressive feat.

"It's special, two guys offensively," George said. "It's great when both guys can get it going.

"The thing about it is, we're dishing, finding each other, feeding each other. And then when we have moments to be aggressive, we're looking to get aggressive, attack, look for our shots. 

"I thought that was a good indication [of what we can do going forward]. Overall, we did a great job of just playing off one another, both looking to score and then finding plays to make our team-mates better as well."

Leonard was thrilled with the performance but insisted Clippers wins were more important than he and George replicating their high points totals in future games.

"It's great that we can have somebody else out there to help scoring the ball, making the game easier for myself," said last year's NBA Finals MVP.

"We got into our spots early, made shots. Paul carried us in that second half."

Asked if this was what he envisaged playing with George, Leonard said: "I didn't think that coming into the season. We just want to win a basketball game. 

"If it's me having 10 and him having 40 or vice-versa, or Lou Will is going or Trezz [Montrezl Harrell] or somebody else having a great game, that is what I envision. I just want to envision winning games.

"We're still trying to build our chemistry out there. We didn't close that third quarter too great. We [have] still got to improve."

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was described as "Maximus coming back as the gladiator" by Doc Rivers as he made a triumphant return to the Toronto Raptors.

Leonard received his championship ring on his first match back in Toronto since opting to join the Clippers in free agency after he had inspired the Canadian franchise to their first NBA title.

The Raptors welcomed him back with a tribute video and he was greeted by former team-mates and coaches in the centre of the court, receiving a positive reception from the home crowd.

Leonard went on to score 23 points, adding six assists and five rebounds as the Clippers won 112-92 on Wednesday to move to 19-7, while the defending champion Raptors dropped to 16-8.

Clippers coach Rivers praised the Raptors for how they received Leonard and was certain the often-reserved NBA Finals MVP had been touched by the occasion.

"It's like Maximus coming back as the gladiator," Rivers said just before tip-off.

"He was the champion and just did everything honourably and the right way. I was joking earlier that would be a great intro."

After the victory, Rivers added: "Some players just don't let you in. But I can tell you that ovation, to him, was very heartfelt. There's no doubt about that. It meant a lot to him.

"I thought what the Raptors did overall - the video, the players coming out, all of them who played with him - that's the best that I've seen since I've been in the league.

"That's a really classy move by the organisation and then by the fans as well."

Kyle Lowry presented Leonard's ring and the two players shared a moment admiring the memento that contains over 640 diamonds.

"I was joking with him and just showing him that the ring was nice and like it was shining too bright – we were laughing," Leonard said, according to ESPN.

"Memories probably just ran through our heads. As far as winning a championship, it pretty much has come full circle now, being able to get the ring and see where the hard work came from.

"But it's more than that. It's just a journey. For me, as far as playing for the city, the chapter coming closed once I came over with the Clippers, but I still love the city.

"Those guys on the team, the players, the coaching staff, I still have love for them and wish them the best."

Asked about the video tribute and fans' reaction when he received his ring, Leonard said: "It was great, it was a great moment.

"They did a great job putting it together, having all the players out there that won with me, standing there and presenting the ring.

"It just kind of puts you back in those spots when you were on the floor, or the locker room talk going into the game, and after the game watching those highlights.

"It was a special season for us, for me and for the whole city and country. I'm just glad we were able to win. It was a blessing."

The Clippers lost Patrick Beverley to a concussion, while Pascal Siakam had a game-high 24 points for the Raptors, who have now lost four of their last five games.

Kawhi Leonard is set to receive his championship ring from the Raptors on Wednesday, but he is still expecting boos from the home fans as he returns to Toronto for the first time since leaving for the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Leonard helped the Raptors claim their first NBA title last season, his sole campaign in Toronto, following a trade from the San Antonio Spurs.

He was named Finals MVP as the Raptors dethroned the Golden State Warriors in an absorbing series, defeating them 4-2.

However, Leonard elected not to re-sign with the Raptors on a long-term deal, opting instead to go back to his home city of Los Angeles and link up with Paul George.

It will be a night of celebration at Scotiabank Arena, but Leonard is not anticipating widespread acclaim.

"This is my first time back in the city since the parade. Obviously, those flashbacks come back driving back to the arena. Of course, it's a little different tonight," Leonard said.

"There will be some cheers but definitely I think more boos because they want to win the game. They're not going to be cheering for a player that's on the opposing team."

Leonard unveiled a thank you message for the city of Toronto on a New Balance billboard ahead of his reunion with the Raptors.

"[The fans] were amazing last year. They rolled with us through the ups and downs. We were down every series pretty much and they stuck through it with us," Leonard added. 

"They brought great energy to every game and it helped us. So that's my thank you to them."

Asked how much he considered staying with Toronto, he replied: "I gave it a big consideration. I took my time, I didn't hurry up and make a quick decision.

"I talked to the front office in detail. It was a hard choice to make."

Paul George had no problem with being booed by Indiana Pacers fans as he led the Los Angeles Clippers to victory on Monday, but suggested they should direct their vitriol closer to home.

George spent seven years with the Pacers before leaving for Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017.

The 29-year-old switched Oklahoma for LA in the offseason, joining the Clippers along with Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors to the championship last season.

Six-time All-Star George was the star of the show for the Clippers on Monday, scoring 36 points and nine rebounds in a 110-99 triumph in Indianapolis.

He was also the recipient of boos and jeers throughout, yet he claimed the Pacers' fans are targeting the wrong person.

"I'm not surprised," George told reporters. "That's Indiana for you. It's a Hoosier thing.

"You know, someday I'll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana and I promise you, I'm not the one to boo.

"I'm not gonna share the teaser, I like being the villain. I'm here two nights out of the year. The people that boo are here a lot longer than I am."

Asked to elaborate further, George stated he had nothing negative to say about Kevin Pritchard, who had said George's trade request in 2017 "was like a punch to the gut".

"You're getting close to trying to get this story out, aren't you?" George said. "I'm not going to bad-mouth KP. That's just Kevin's side of the story."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, acknowledged he had been surprised at the level of hostility George received.

"Yeah, I was shocked," Rivers told reporters. "I really was. I was ill-equipped. It was offensive to me.

"But I was unprepared for that, I didn't know it was bad feelings and it was lingering. Obviously it was."

The Clippers are next in action on Wednesday, when it will be Leonard's turn to make a return to his former team the Raptors, and George is anticipating a markedly different reception.

"The opposite of what it was like [Monday]," he said.

Kawhi Leonard has no doubt the Los Angeles Clippers have the makings of a "special" team after they thrashed the Washington Wizards 150-125 on Sunday.

Two-time NBA champion Leonard scored 34 points on 14-of-21 shooting as the Clippers tied their best scoring performance of the season at Staples Center.

Paul George poured in 31 points, while Montrezl Harrell (23 points, 15 rebounds) and Lou Williams (22 points) made important contributions from the bench as Los Angeles bounced back from a loss to the San Antonio Spurs and improved to 15-6.

"I think it's going to take time, learning each other and playing in these games that are so up and down. It could be special," said Leonard.

"We have a lot of scorers, guys who can make threes, people that space out the floor. Then as well as our defense it's just getting out and getting easy points."

On George's display after he went 2-of-11 for five points against the Spurs last time out, Leonard added: "I think he just made shots tonight. He probably was a bit more aggressive, wanting to come back from the loss last game.

"Once you see one of your guys get hot you want to feed them the ball and see how many they can make in a row." 

The Clippers will return to the floor on Tuesday when they host a Portland Trail Blazers team that was recently boosted by the addition of 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

"I'm happy for him. He wanted to get back and play. I'm happy he was able to get back in the NBA. It's well deserved," Leonard said of Anthony.

"I don't think he was treated the right way, how they left him out there [despite] being a future Hall of Famer.

"As you can see he can still run up and down the floor, he's still got a lot of basketball left in him. It's going to be a fun match-up for us and another competitive game." 

Paul George described the Los Angeles Clippers defense as "scary" as they stifled Luka Doncic in a 114-99 defeat of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs saw their five-game winning streak snapped at American Airlines Center on Tuesday as George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 54 points in a ruthless display.

The Clippers produced a masterful defensive plan to curtail the impact of Doncic, who came into the match off a franchise-record streak of four games with at least 30 points and 10 assists.

The 20-year-old was restricted to 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists and was 0-8 from three-point attempts, while he committed seven of his side's 20 turnovers.

George and Leonard have each seen their seasons curtailed by injury and this was the first game in which they have scored at least 20 points each as team-mates.

While he admits their offensive work still needs improvement, George believes the Clippers defense is a force to be reckoned with.

"Offensively, we're still figuring it out," he said. "We're still a work in progress, but I think defensively is where each game we're getting better and better. Not even from just me and him, but from the team overall. We're doing stuff instinctively now where we're not even thinking.

"It's just happening. It's a natural habit that we're creating. That's what's most scary because everybody is kind of thinking the same thing when we're on the defensive end, and we're just scrambling."

Leonard added: "We came out with a defensive mindset on the road. [We] wanted to do the best job we could on Luka. He's been killing it lately, playing at a very, very high level.

"We just wanted to make it difficult for him tonight, get some deflections, and I think we were able to do that."

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle credited Doncic for now allowing frustrations to get the better of him during a bruising encounter.

"It was frustrating because he got hit and knocked on the floor a couple of times early," Carlisle said. "Teams are physical with him. They want to make him feel contact. They want him to hit the floor as often as possible.

"It wears down great players, but he stayed in the game. He didn't let frustrations with the officials get to him."

The Los Angeles Clippers made it six straight wins after Kawhi Leonard and Paul George helped see off Luka Doncic and the red-hot Dallas Mavericks.

Leonard had a game-high 28 points and George added 26 of his own as the streaking Clippers beat the Mavericks 114-99 in the NBA on Tuesday.

George scored 17 of his points in the opening quarter to help the Clippers improve to 13-5, while Lou Williams contributed 21 points from the bench.

The Mavs (11-6), who were also riding a five-game winning streak prior to the clash, were led by Doncic's 22 points in Dallas.

Doncic was coming off a franchise-record streak of four games with at least 30 points and 10 assists, following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

However, the reigning Rookie of the Year was stopped by the Clippers on home court – Doncic finishing four of 14 from the field and 0 of eight from three-point range.

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets were too good for the Washington Wizards 117-104 in the day's only other game.

Nikola Jokic put up eight points and 20 rebounds, and Jerami Grant had a team-high 20 points for the Nuggets in Denver.

 

Lakers at Pelicans

All eyes will be on Smoothie King Center on Wednesday. Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will return to New Orleans to face the Pelicans for the first time since his blockbuster trade to LA. The Lakers (15-2) have won eight games in a row to boast the league's best record, while the Pelicans (6-11) have dropped back-to-back games.

Paul George was thrilled to take to the court alongside Kawhi Leonard for the first time as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Boston Celtics 107-104 in overtime.

After injuries to both players postponed their maiden outing together, the wait was ended in Wednesday's clash with the Celtics in LA.

George put up 25 points and eight assists, while Leonard finished with a 17-point haul that included a dazzling dunk over the towering Daniel Theis.

And George was full of praise for his fellow Spurs star.

"I mean, that's the Finals MVP, man," George said of Leonard. "He knows when it's time to take over.

"He's been there and he's won championships with multiple ball clubs, so he knows how to stomp and put that foot on opponents' neck and that's what you saw him do tonight.

"It was fun to see what this team can look like on the defensive end, and offensively it was fun to see how we can play off each other.

"The fact of the matter is we are going to have growing pains and I think the most positive thing is we understood that.

"Nobody was pointing fingers or dropping their heads in huddles ... at no point was this team ever dysfunctional."

For his part, Leonard recognises there is room for improvement as the duo bed in alongside each other, with game time the key.

"It's pretty much just finding each other's spots and knowing the plays," Leonard said.

"It's still tough. We are both kind of on a minute restriction, hard to get into a flow. But just knowing plays and each other's spots and the language on the defensive end [will help].

"Repetition is what we need right now."

Luka Doncic recorded a remarkable triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks demolished the Golden State Warriors 142-94 in the NBA.

Doncic showed no mercy with 35 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action on Wednesday.

The second-year guard had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds after the first quarter alone in Dallas midweek.

Doncic – who was coming off a 40-point triple-double on Monday – has an NBA-best seven triple-doubles through 14 games for the Mavs (9-5) this season.

The struggling Warriors (3-13) were led by Eric Paschall's 22 points on the road.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George took to the court for the first time together as the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the Boston Celtics 107-104 in overtime.

Injuries to both players postponed the star Clippers recruits from playing together, however, that changed on Wednesday.

George had 25 points and eight assists, while Leonard – back from injury – finished with 17 points in Los Angeles, while Jayson Tatum scored 30 points.

 

Giannis sparks Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 33 points and 11 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 135-127 victory against the Atlanta Hawks. Eric Bledsoe had 28 of his own as the Bucks won their fifth consecutive game.

James Harden (27) and Russell Westbrook (25) combined for 52 points, while Clint Capela posted 12 points and 21 rebounds but the Houston Rockets still lost 105-95 to the Denver Nuggets.

Jarrett Allen's 22 points and 17 rebounds led the Brooklyn Nets past the Charlotte Hornets 101-91.

 

Spurs' slide continues

The San Antonio Spurs are in freefall. Gregg Popovich's team dropped their seventh straight game – a 138-132 loss to the Washington Wizards. It is San Antonio's worst streak since 1996-97.

 

Simmons shoots a three!

Yes, you read that right. Ben Simmons nailed his first three-pointer in the NBA. After 17 unsuccessful attempts, the Philadelphia 76ers guard ended his drought in the opening quarter of his team's 109-104 win over the New York Knicks.

Wednesday's results

Washington Wizards 138-132 San Antonio Spurs
Philadelphia 76ers 109-104 New York Knicks
Toronto Raptors 113-97 Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks 135-127 Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat 124-100 Cleveland Cavaliers
Brooklyn Nets 101-91 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 142-94 Golden State Warriors
Chicago Bulls 109-89 Detroit Pistons
Utah Jazz 103-95 Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets 105-95 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 107-104 Boston Celtics (OT)

 

Trail Blazers at Bucks

The Bucks (11-3) will back up when they welcome Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers (5-10) to Milwaukee on Thursday. Anthony made his debut last time out and will be looking to make more of an impact against the high-flying Bucks.

Anthony Davis is not willing to follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard and sit out games as the Los Angeles Lakers big man prepares for his return.

Davis sat out Wednesday's win over the lowly Golden State Warriors due to shoulder and rib soreness, but the Lakers star is set to face the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

Much has been made about load management this season, with Leonard missing three games already in 2019-20 following his absence from the Clippers' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

While the Lakers improved to 9-2 without Davis midweek, the star recruit has no plans for more rest.

"What, like, load management? No," Davis said on Friday. "Obviously, it's great [to win].

"If something comes up where somebody has to sit out, then fine, but I don't think anyone on this team is probably going to sit out."

He added: "Went through shootaround today. Felt good."

Davis had strapping on his right shoulder prior to the start of Tuesday's 123-115 victory over the Phoenix Suns and had tape on his ribs by the end of the match at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The six-time NBA All-Star played on after a blow to the ribs in the first quarter, before heading to the locker room to get taped up ahead of the final period.

X-rays taken after the game came back negative and Davis was re-evaluated again prior to being ruled out of the Warriors showdown.

"Not really much you can do but just let it heal," Davis told reporters. "I want to play. But obviously saying that, the training staff will probably be more reluctant to [let me play].

"If it's still bothering me a little bit, [they'll] have me sit out. Or if it's feeling good, I'm going to play ... Just to know that the way the team played when I sat out, I don't have to be in a rush to get back."

Davis has hit the ground running since arriving from the Pelicans in a blockbuster trade, averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists with the Lakers this season.

"It's super tough," Davis said. "It's a long season. It's early in the season. You don't want to continue to play through something and then it gets worse. So it's always sitting in the back of your head. But at the same time, you want to play.

"So you've got to listen to your body, be honest with the training staff and try to do what you can. Kind of do what's best for the betterment of the team."

Paul George is likely to make his long-awaited Los Angeles Clippers bow against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

George sat out Wednesday's 102-93 loss to the Houston Rockets as the star recruit continues to rehabilitate from a pair of offseason shoulder operations.

The two minor shoulder surgeries have postponed George's Clippers debut, however, the six-time NBA All-Star is poised to make his first appearance for Los Angeles.

Asked about George and his potential debut prior to the midweek defeat to the Rockets, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said: "Maybe tomorrow [Thursday] or whenever we play after that."

George – along with 2018-19 champion Kawhi Leonard – joined the Clippers in the close season, with the Oklahoma City Thunder trading the 29-year-old for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round draft picks, and the rights to swap two other first-round picks.

While George is set to make his debut, he may not do so alongside Leonard as the Clippers navigate back-to-back games.

Leonard has already sat out this season due to load management and Rivers added: "Honestly, it has probably been harder than we thought because we are still in the process of getting Kawhi right 100 percent, and then you don't have Paul at all.

"Then you have a select few practices, and you have to make a choice every practice: Do you put Paul in the line-up even though he's not playing, but then you got to play tomorrow with another group, or do you put Paul in the second group, and we have chosen the second group, even the third group at times.

"I don't think he's yet to play even one minute with the starting line-up yet. It's just going to take time."

Kawhi Leonard was happy to receive special attention from his former Toronto Raptors team-mates as he overcame a mixed individual night in a valuable win for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers moved to 7-3 for the season with a 98-88 victory over the defending NBA champions at Staples Center on Monday.

Leonard, the Finals MVP with the Raptors last season, had his worst game since joining the Clippers, as he had a career-high nine turnovers and shot only 2-of-11 from the field.

He was harassed by the Raptors (also now 7-3) throughout, often double-teamed and trapped as well as being challenged at half court.

But Leonard felt the experience proved beneficial and produced some good moments as the game progressed, eventually finishing with a line of 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

"They made me better," Leonard told reporters. "As soon as I walked across half court, they were trying to get the ball out of my hands, sending an extra defender. 

"[Opponents] are going to do it at times in the playoffs and regular season and they [Clippers team-mates] are going to knock down the open shot. That's what wins games: open shots. We came out with the win. 

"They did a great job on me - but I'm glad they did. It made me better and it's going to make my team-mates better as well.

"It's even better coming out with a win. My team-mates made shots. It wasn't one of those nights for me."

Leonard acknowledged facing the Raptors is always going to feel a little different given he remains on good terms with head coach Nick Nurse and much of the roster.

But he was keen to leave last season's NBA title and his subsequent free agency decision in the past.

"We grew a relationship," Leonard added. "It's just fun being able to compete against guys you were with last year. 

"From that aspect, it's a little bit more competitive because you do talk to them. So I can tell them that we won the game.

"But no, why would I think about last season? It's over now, we won. 

"Like I said before, I had a great time here and it's the next chapter. I can't live in the past and be so excited that I won [a championship]. 

"I won with a different team, a different unit. They want to have that same feeling and I do as well. I'm a Clipper right now and I'm trying to win."

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