Kawhi Leonard was back in Canada, where last season he won a championship.
NBA general managers think he’s going to win another one this season.
They voted the Los Angeles Clippers as the favorites Thursday in the NBA.com GM survey , believing Leonard and Paul George are the missing pieces for a team that’s never even been beyond the second round.
Los Angeles was tabbed as the favorite by 46 percent of the GMs who responded. A big reason was Leonard, who not only ended LeBron James’ streak as top small forward that dated to the 2005 poll, but was also voted the league’s most impactful offseason addition, best defender and best perimeter defender.
Leonard proved what a difference he can make last season. He led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in June, triggering celebrations all over Canada. He returned to play in front of the country’s fans in the Clippers’ preseason finale against the Dallas Mavericks in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“They should be excited,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “He did something very special for this country. So that’ll be a lot of fun for him, for sure.”
HEAT 107, MAGIC 98
Jimmy Butler had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists to help visiting Miami beat Orlando.
Duncan Robinson made four 3-pointers and added 17 points for the Heat (4-0). Kelly Olynyk added 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in his preseason debut. Olynyk missed time due to a bruised right knee he suffered during his time with the Canadian national team in August.
Evan Fournier had 16 points and Mo Bamba and Nikola Vucevic scored 14 points each for the Magic (3-3).
BULLS 111, HAWKS 93
No. 7 overall pick Coby White scored 29 points in 23 minutes, making 10 of 14 from the field and 6 of 8 from the 3-point range for Chicago.
Zach LaVine added 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the Bulls (2-3). Otto Porter Jr. scored 15.
Jabari Parker had 15 points and Jordan Sibert scored 14 for the visiting Hawks (1-4).
BUCKS 118, TIMBERWOLVES 96
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and 14 rebounds and host Milwaukee finished its preseason undefeated.
Khris Middleton added 18 points and seven assists and Robin Lopez scored 14 points for the Bucks (5-0).
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves (2-3) with 16 points. Robert Covington had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
NUGGETS 110, TRAIL BLAZERS 104
Paul Millsap and Will Barton had 13 points apiece in Denver, where 15 Nuggets and 13 Trail Blazers logged at least 12 minutes in the preseason finale for both teams. They open the regular season with a rematch Wednesday night.
Monte Morris added 12 points and Nikola Jokic scored 11 for the Nuggets (4-0).
Mario Hezonja was 3 of 4 from 3-point range and scored 18 points for the Trail Blazers (2-3). Zach Collins had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
MAVERICKS 102, CLIPPERS 87
Justin Jackson and Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points apiece and Dallas mostly led by double digits against Los Angeles.
Luka Doncic and Terance Mann received a double technical for shoving each other in the third quarter. Mann knocked the ball out of Doncic’s hand after play had been whistled dead, and Doncic’ retaliated with a chest-to-chest confrontation. Doncic finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Mavericks (2-3). Mann had eight points.
Montrezl Harrell had 14 points for the Clippers (2-3). Leonard added seven of his 13 points in the third quarter.
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