Kawhi Leonard absent? Paul George scores 40 points in a victory, so the Clippers have no issues.

SANTA CRUZ — In NBA arenas, the pregame public address announcement of teams’ inactive players is typically an afterthought because fans are more concerned with finding their seats than with the guys not wearing uniforms. The notion of Clippers star reserves Kawhi Leonard and John Wall sitting out the second game of the season for rest, however, elicited mild but audible booing inside Golden 1 Center on Saturday night. After Leonard played 21 minutes off the bench on Thursday, his first time as a reserve in nine years, the team committed to manage each player’s early-season minutes cautiously. Saturday was the second instance of that in as many games.

Leonard and Wall travelled, but they sat on the sidelines. This season, the squad will frequently play with fewer players than necessary due to their own decisions. Who and what does turn up for the Clippers on those nights will be the deciding factor in terms of success or failure.

There were 13 turnovers made during the Clippers’ 111-109 victory over the Kings, which improved their record to 2-0. Many of them met coach Tyronn Lue’s definition of carelessness, including lofted passes that were intercepted at midcourt and easily scored by the Kings and a pass to no one in particular in the first quarter. Norman Powell, who has put expectation on himself to play at an All-Star level while starting in Leonard’s absence, made one of his 10 shots one night after making two of his eight shots against the Lakers.

With Wall out, there were three odd delay-of-game calls, as well as periods when the offence stalled in the absence of a reliable backup point guard.

But from the time he became irate after being called for an offensive foul and drawing a technical for disputing the ruling to the game’s conclusion, there was an onslaught of Paul George, who scored his 20th career 40-point game. After scoring just four points in the first 11 minutes of his game, he finished with 40 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals in the final 28.

George has experience carrying the offence without Leonard last season, scoring 40 points twice before suffering an elbow injury weeks into the previous campaign. On Saturday, he demonstrated his ease in taking on that responsibility once more.

Before the first game, Lue discussed being aggressive even with Leonard back in the lineup this season, even after George had said that he was Leonard’s backup option.

Leave a Comment