Sports

Powell nets game-high 24 in return for Clippers

LOS ANGELES — After scoring a game-high 24 points in his first outing alongside Paul George, Norman Powell thinks the LA Clippers can be a potential headache for opponents if they get out of the play-in next week.

Powell returned Wednesday after missing nearly two months because of a fractured bone in his left foot and hit his first six shots to help the Clippers build a 39-point lead before holding on for a 113-109 win over the Phoenix Suns at Crypto.com Arena. His return came just three games before the Clippers are set to play in next week’s play-in as the eighth-placed team in the West.

“I think we can be really dangerous,” Powell told ESPN after the Clippers’ third straight win. “Paul George drives a lot of attention on the floor, and when me and him and [Marcus Morris Sr.] and Reggie [Jackson] are all on the floor, we got so many weapons.”

Powell added: “I just think we have weapons at every position and I can take the pressure off those guys if need be, being a ball handler as well. I’m excited for what we can do in the playoffs. I definitely think teams are definitely going to have to worry about us, just how deep our team is.”

The Clippers (40-40) are currently the healthiest they have been all season. George returned last week after missing three months due to a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. And Powell was back playing in just his fourth game as a Clipper after being acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers before the trade deadline.

With this being their first game together, George and Powell combined for 43 points, including going 18-for-21 together from the free throw line. The Clippers hope to build more chemistry and rhythm together with two games remaining before the play-in. But Powell is getting some 2018-19 Toronto Raptors vibes from this Clippers team with the veteran defensive versatility and offensive firepower on the roster.

“It reminds me of that 2019 team,” said Powell, who won a title with the Raptors that season. “We were able to do that with Pascal [Siakam], with Marc [Gasol], with Serge [Ibaka], Kawhi [Leonard], Danny [Green], Kyle [Lowry], me, Fred [VanVleet. What we had, were able to give them different lineups throughout the course of the game, whatever the game is dictating, to go big, defense, with length.

“With me not even in the game, you still got Nico [Batum] and [Robert Covington] who can switch and cover 1 through 5. I think that is an added bonus for us. We can mix it up whenever we need to, and it is going to make it hard for teams to score on us.”

Powell can’t wait to play again with his former Raptors teammate Leonard, who is working his way back after having surgery to repair a torn right ACL last July. There is no timetable for Leonard, who went through an individual workout prior to the Clippers’ practice on Tuesday and could be seen working on jab-step jumpers from midrange and 3-point range and dribble and spin midrange jumpers.

“Just [been] asking him how he feels, where his head is at,” Powell said of Leonard. “He feels good. Seeing him being able to work out, put some shots up, things like that, I think his rehab is trending in the right direction. As you know, and everybody else, you are not going to get too much information out of Kawhi. They keep everything [under] wraps, but I know he is feeling good and his rehab is progressing.”

As for Powell, his foot has responded following simulated games in practice and 23 minutes against the Suns.

“The foot has been feeling good,” Powell said. “The medical staff wanted to give me a few test games, stay-ready games leading up to the game tonight, seeing how it would respond to the extra workload. It was feeling great. Tonight it feels great. … I thought it was a good first game after being out for two months.”

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