NBA

Clippers coach Lue hails Leonard: We had to ride him pretty hard

By Sports Desk January 25, 2021

Tyronn Lue hailed Kawhi Leonard's performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledging the Los Angeles Clippers had to "ride him pretty hard" to get the win.

Leonard stepped up with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to drag the Clippers to a 108-100 triumph in Sunday's contest.

He became the fifth player in the franchise's history to register those numbers and the first since Ron Harper against the Golden State Warriors in March 1994.

The Clippers have now won seven straight games and hold the joint-best record in the NBA at 13-4.

With Paul George sitting out the closing minutes due to hamstring tightness, head coach Lue praised Leonard for stepping up.

"He's been phenomenal for us, tonight we had to ride him," he said.

"Kawhi had it going so we played through him a lot, especially in the second half. He created points for himself and for the team as well.

"We had to ride him pretty hard just so we could continue to keep the lead and play through him a lot, I think he did a good job with that."

George had 11 points from 33 minutes and Lue explained why he was not involved in the final stages.

"I benched him…I benched him!" Lue joked, before adding: "No, I'm just joking. He had some tightness going into the game tonight.

"He got loose when he played but had tightness, that last four and a half minutes he tightened up again so it was just a precaution. Just his hamstring."

The Clippers are flying in the NBA and Leonard offered his thoughts on why the team are firing.

"I think our three-point percentage, not allowing threes, making sure the other team isn't getting good looks from three-point line is helping us," he said.

"We're playing team basketball, sharing the ball, staying level-headed, staying positive, making shots right now. We're trying to get better."

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    Roberto Baggio

    Having begun his career at Vicenza, The Divine Ponytail's move to Fiorentina saw his star rise as he spent five impressive years in the purple shirt.

    However, after he helped Fiorentina to the 1990 UEFA Cup final, only to be defeated over two ill-tempered legs by their great rivals Juventus, salt was very much rubbed into the fans' wounds as the Bianconeri paid a then world-record fee to take Baggio.

    Reports claimed that fans hurled bricks, chains and Molotov cocktails at Fiorentina's headquarters, and for the two days after the transfer was announced, club president Flavio Pontello took shelter in the stadium, with 50 injuries and nine arrests recorded.

    Baggio would only improve his reputation further at Juve, winning the UEFA Cup in 1993, before securing a league and cup double two years later, scoring 115 goals in 200 games across five seasons before moving to Milan, where he won another Scudetto in his first year.

    After being dismissed by Fabio Capello at San Siro in 1997, Baggio had an impressive season at Bologna where he scored a personal best 22 league goals, before moving back to the city of Milan with Inter.

    Things did not work out at the Nerazzurri but he still went on to enjoy four final seasons in Serie A with Brescia, where he reached double figures in each campaign before retiring in 2004.

    Gabriel Batistuta

    There is arguably no more iconic player in Fiorentina history. A striker who football fans of a certain vintage remember banging in goals on Sunday afternoons during the nineties.

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    Rui Costa

    The Portuguese maestro had made a name for himself at Benfica before moving to Italy in 1994 and making 230 appearances in seven years with La Viola, winning two Coppa Italia titles.

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    Federico Bernardeschi

    Bernardeschi came through the youth ranks at Fiorentina, with big things expected of him as he burst onto the scene after an impressive loan at Crotone in Serie B in the 2013-14 season.

    During three years in the first team, Bernardeschi scored 23 goals in 93 games and registered 11 assists, which unfortunately for Viola fans saw old enemies Juve come swooping in again.

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    Federico Chiesa

    Another Fiorentina youth product, Chiesa had all eyes on him as soon as he broke through due to being the son of former Viola and Italy striker Enrico Chiesa.

    Chiesa Jr made his first-team debut, somewhat ironically, against Juve at the age of 18, and over the next couple of years began to establish himself as the potential future of the club.

    More suited to playing out wide than his father, who was a traditional central striker, Chiesa's managed 34 goals and 19 assists in 153 games at Fiorentina but it his tenacity, pace and skill that sets him apart.

    That was enough to tempt – yes, you guessed it – Juve to come along and take him on a two-year loan, with an obligation to make it permanent at the end of the current campaign.

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    There also must be honourable mentions for the likes of Luca Toni, whose emergence at Fiorentina earned him a lucrative move to Bayern Munich, and Francesco Toldo - he was sold to Inter at the same time that Costa was packed off to Milan to ease club debts.

    Juan Cuadrado (now at Juventus) and Marcos Alonso were both sold to Chelsea for decent money two years apart, while Felipe Melo (Juventus), Stevan Jovetic (Manchester City) and Matias Vecino (Inter) continued Fiorentina's philosophy of buying low and selling high.

    The path well-trodden out of the Stadio Artemio Franchi has often led to bigger and better things, and that bodes well for Vlahovic now that it appears he will be the next in line.

    He seems to have all the tools to be the star striker this current, rather dour, edition of the Bianconeri require. Indeed, Vlahovic's 33 goals in Serie A last season matched the record set by Cristiano Ronaldo at Juve in 2020.

    It might be tough to take (again) for Viola fans, but if history is anything to go by, their next hero won't be far away.

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