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Friday, April 19, 2024

Clippers’ James Harden reveals why he contested Kawhi Leonard’s shot

The Clippers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, but James Harden stole the show in the third quarter when he contested Kawhi Leonard’s shot

The LA Clippers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers for a great bounce back win on Wednesday night, but James Harden stole the show in the third quarter on a hilarious play involving teammate Kawhi Leonard.

With 4:28 remaining in the third quarter with the Clippers leading the Blazers 81-60, James Harden attacked the basket from the top of the key and found Kawhi Leonard in the strong side corner spotting up for a wide-open three-pointer. Harden found him for the open shot, but proceeded to contest the corner three-pointer by Leonard, which missed.

Ivica Zubac tipped out an offensive rebound back out to Harden, who found Amir Coffey in the opposite corner for three.

The play quickly made the rounds on social media with most fans asking variations of the question, ‘what the hell was James Harden thinking?!’

Fans clamored for local beat writers to ask James Harden and Kawhi Leonard what that was about. The question was brought up in the postgame press conferences after the Clippers’ 116-103 victory. The reason Harden did it? To lighten the mood of what’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Clippers.

“Gotta bring some excitement to this team,” James Harden responded to reporters’ questions in Portland after the Clippers win. “I think these last few weeks have been a fog for us. I think every team goes through it, so I think just me, just trying to create good energy, create great vibes for this team. It would’ve been better if he made the shot but give us something to laugh about, some excitement for the season.”

Did he succeed?

“Yeah, I did,” Harden said with a smile, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.

The LA Clippers had been going through it prior to Wednesday night’s win against the Blazers. Coming into the night, the Clippers had lost four of their last five games. Since the All-Star break, they’re 7-8 with losses against the Minnesota Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns, the Milwaukee Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Atlanta Hawks without Trae Young.

On top of that, James Harden had been dealing with a left shoulder strain, Kawhi Leonard missed the final three quarters of a big game against the Timberwolves with a back issue, and Paul George had been trying to find his footing through the knee and groin issues he’s been dealing with.

Wednesday was a release in multiple ways.

“[We felt] free, excited, just got some really good plays,” Harden continued. “I think just being us man. Just having fun with the game. The game, it gives you so much, especially when you enjoy it and embrace it. You wanna see better. You wanna see your teammates do a great job, knock down shots, and just play well. So I think for us, it’s just getting back to that even more than we have been.”

James Harden finished the Clippers’ win over the Blazers with 19 points, three rebounds, and 14 assists in 36 minutes of play. Paul George scored a game-high 27 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 10-of-18 shooting. Kawhi Leonard also pitched in 24 points, four rebounds, two assists, and four steals on 9-of-16 shooting.

The Clippers will remain in Portland through Saturday with one more game against the Trail Blazers on Friday night. They’ll return home for a back-to-back set against the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Harden has played in 60 of the team’s 66 games this season, recording 18 double-doubles and two triple-doubles.

Tomer Azarly_headshot

About the Author

Tomer Azarly is in his seventh season as the LA Clippers beat writer for ClutchPoints. From the Lob City era to the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era, he brings you everything you need to know about the Clippers.

In his off time, Tomer likes to play basketball, video games, and draw.

You can follow his Twitter for all Clippers content.

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