Ezeli Returns As Warriors Top Clippers, 125-107
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Festus Ezeli played for the first time in 17 months, scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds to help the Golden State Warriors beat the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers 125-107 in Tuesday's preseason game.
The backup center added one block in 11 minutes to clear a major milestone in his recovery from right knee surgery. Ezeli played 78 games as a rookie before missing all of last season with rehabilitation. He also missed part of this season's training camp with inflammation in his right shin.
The Warriors' Stephen Curry scored 27 points and David Lee had 12 points and six rebounds.
Jared Cunningham had 23 points and J.J. Redick scored 21 to lead the Clippers. Coach Doc Rivers rested stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut was not with the team because of an illness. Ognjen Kuzmic started in Bogut's place, tallying eight points and 10 rebounds.
Ezeli, who turned 25 years old Tuesday, celebrated his birthday in a big way. The 6-foot-11 center entered to cheers with 3:05 remaining in the first quarter and made an immediate impact, swatting a shot from Cunningham and hitting a short turnaround jumper over Ekpe Udoh.
He also turned in one of the game's best highlights. Ezeli, wearing a black brace around his knee, sprinted down the lane on a pick-and-roll and caught an alley-oop from Andre Iguodala for a two-handed slam. Iguodala threw his arms in the air, and players jumped out of their seats on Golden State's bench. Ezeli smiled as he was greeted with hugs and high-fives from teammates at the end of the quarter.
Ezeli was supposed to start the fourth quarter but motioned to Marreese Speights to take his place. A minute later, Ezeli and coach Steve Kerr spoke on the bench before the big man returned for a final series.
The Warriors drafted Ezeli out of Vanderbilt with the 30th pick in the 2012 draft. He hadn't played since a Game 6 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs on May 16, 2013.
The Clippers: Glen Davis (strained right groin) and Jordan Farmar (lower back tightness) sat out. They are day to day. ... L.A. is 1-5 in the preseason.
The Warriors: Brandon Rush (lower back spasms) and Shaun Livingston (right toe surgery) did not play. Both are expected to miss the Oct. 29 regular-season opener at Sacramento. ... Golden State is 5-2 in the preseason.
Los Angeles hosts Phoenix on Wednesday.
Golden State finishes the preseason Friday night at home against Denver.
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