It’s just that playing against Kawhi Leonard wears you out. That’s mentally and physically. When Leonard is on the court he’s also in your head as an opponent. And no great player has been more affected over the course of Leonard’s career than superstar LeBron James. Remember James’s reaction to Leonard coming into a playoff game as a rook?
Flash forward to opening night for the hotly anticipated 2019-20 NBA season — with its headline subtext of the Leonard-James battle for Los Angeles supremacy. James again looked less like his superhero self and more like just a really good regular NBA player. (James went 7-for-19 from the field, including 1-for-5 from 3-points. He grabbed 9 boards and dished 8 assists.)
The Clippers handed James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers an opening loss, 112-102. Below is a sequence that gives an idea of how it happened. Here’s James missing an open layup that he worked hard to drive and create. Then he comes back slowly on defense, only to turn the ball over on the next possession.
James can’t make everything, of course, but it’s rare to see ugly plays like this from the great one. Wouldn’t want to play the Lakers next.