Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard enjoyed one of his best games of the season Thursday thanks to 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, but the Boston Celtics held off a late Clips charge to earn a 116-110 home win.
Leonard missed all of last season with a partial tear of his right ACL. He returned for this season's opener and played 21 minutes before taking one game off and suiting up for 21 more minutes in the Clippers' third matchup of the season.
However, Leonard then missed his team's next 12 games due to right knee injury management. He returned to the lineup on Nov. 17 and averaged 23 minutes over the next three matchups but then missed six more games due to a right ankle sprain.
Leonard struggled over his first eight games, averaging 11.6 points on 39.8 percent shooting in 25.0 minutes.
But he's looked far more like his superstar self of late, averaging 22.3 points on 51.5 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 31.8 minutes per game in his last six matchups entering the Celtics game.
He kept the good vibes rolling Thursday with 15 points and six rebounds in the first half to keep L.A. in the game. The Clippers held a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Celtics were too strong down the stretch en route to the win.
Still, this was an encouraging result for the Clippers as Leonard continued to roll and L.A. went blow-for-blow with the team sporting the NBA's best record.
Twitter recognized Leonard's superb evening.
The Clippers are certainly happy to see Leonard on the court and thriving. Despite the loss, they are 11-4 with him and 10-12 without him this season.
They'll return to the court Saturday when they visit the Indiana Pacers.