LOS ANGELES -- For the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday began with a series of phone calls from the NBA's league office and a $50,000 fine.
For their best player, it proceeded to get worse from there.
Only hours after the NBA took the step of publicly detailing that he is suffering from an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee, Kawhi Leonard indeed did not look right.
The Clippers star forward made only three of his first 13 field goals against Portland at Staples Center and scored nine points through three quarters.
When it mattered most, however, Leonard appeared not only fine but unstoppable.
The NBA's leading fourth-quarter scorer dropped 18 points in the final 12 minutes to lead the Clippers to a 107-101 victory and establish, once again, that if he is not healthy enough to play every game this season, he is nonetheless capable of taking over those in which he does appear.
"He has an incredible will," coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought he felt like he was struggling a little bit.
"He has this, I don't' know what it is, this determination like, 'I'm going to go get the win.' He plays the game to win."
Leonard finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, six turnovers and four assists in 33 minutes. Teammate Lou Williams made a three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining that turned a one-point Clippers lead into a two-possession game and the arena into a wall of sound.
It was a rare make from beyond the arc, on a night when the Clippers (6-3) made a season-low four three-pointers on 23 attempts.