In college, Kawhi Leonard had a motto that he would impart upon his teammates.
"Board man gets paid."
The idea behind the motto is that in order to make it to the NBA, Leonard needed to do more than just scoring. He needed to do the little things in order to help his team win: defense, passing, and most importantly, rebounding.
The more "boards" [rebounds], Leonard could grab in a game, the better his chances of achieving his dream. As a guard, Leonard led the Mountain West Conference in offensive, defensive, and total rebounds in his sophomore season. He was selected No.15 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft because of it.
Leonard won the 2019 NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors in June, and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent this offseason.
Monday marked Leonard's first game against his former team and he backed up his motto in a 98-88 victory.
With the Raptors constantly double-teaming Leonard throughout the game, the reigning NBA Finals MVP grabbed 11 rebounds, allowing the Clippers to win the game, and the battle of the boards, 66-38.
His former teammates were friendly with Leonard both before and after the game, but they were anything but friendly during the contest, trapping the 28-year-old every time he touched the ball, and forcing him to become a facilitator instead of a scorer.
Leonard happily obliged. Even though he shot 1-for-8 from the field for just seven points through the first three quarters, Leonard did all the little things instead. He was able to affect the game with his defense, passing, and rebounding. Leonard recorded a team-high three steals, and dished out a game-high nine assists.
Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, and Mo Harkless were the beneficiaries of many of those assists in the fourth quarter, as the Clippers closed out the game on a 16-6 run.
"When your star is not going, or they are double-teaming you, you have to have other guys knocking down big shots like they did tonight," Leonard told Prime Ticket following the win.
Toronto was playing shorthanded, and on the second night of a back-to-back, after stifling the Lakers on Sunday. The Raptors interior defense against LeBron and Anthony Davis was tenacious, forcing the Lakers to beat them with their perimeter shooting. The Lakers struggled from beyond the arc, and that allowed long rebounds that enabled Toronto to get out in transition, scoring 113 points in the victory.
On Monday, their double coverage on Leonard forced anyone else on the Clippers to have to beat them. Lou Williams and the Clippers bench certainly assisted in doing that, but sometime soon, Leonard will have former MVP finalist Paul George to back him up. Who are the Raptors—or any team for that matter—going to double then?
If anything, Leonard's reunion with the Raptors showed just how difficult it's going to be for any team to defeat the Clippers once George returns.