Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will be day-to-day with a right knee sprain after missing Thursday night’s Game 3 against Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns.
Leonard suffered the sprained right knee during Game 1 of Clippers-Suns back on Sunday, April 16th. The injury was sustained late in the game, but Kawhi Leonard played through that. After a day to recover, Leonard played in Game 2, and that’s where the injury appeared to worsen.
“He had it at the end of Game 1,” President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said Thursday night. ‘It’s the Playoffs, so he wanted to fight through it. Obviously was able to play through Game 2. Symptoms got worse after Game 2, and we ruled him out for tonight.
“Obviously, look, if we weren’t comfortable with him playing, we wouldn’t have. But, like I said, after the game, things didn’t get better, they got worse. So we ruled him out for tonight.”
As of Friday morning, Kawhi Leonard has no timeline to return to play.
“Just kind of take it day by day,” added Lawrence Frank. “In these type of injuries, you feel so bad for him. I mean, everything that he puts into (indiscernible) ACL, but everything he’s put into his craft, literally the Playoffs, these are the moments he lives for. You feel horrible for Kawhi that he’s out for tonight. We’ll take it day by day.”
Kawhi Leonard started the postseason on fire, scoring 38 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field in Game 1. The Clippers star then followed that up with a 31 point performance on 11-of-20 shooting to go along with his eight rebounds and seven assists.
After Game 2, it was determined that Leonard was not medically cleared to play in Game 3 despite him wanting to play.
“My heart and empathy is really with Kawhi, just like it was with Paul because a lot of times when injuries happen, typically that’s the question: How does the organization… I think sometimes what gets lost is how incredibly disappointed, frustrated the players feel when they can’t perform, especially in these moments, this is what they live for.
“I feel horrible for Kawhi that he can’t play tonight. And yet our guys, the tenor and personality of our team. They are excited for the opportunity. They feel horrible that Kawhi can’t compete tonight. But they look forward to the opportunity.”
While there hasn’t been any announcement on Kawhi Leonard’s injury status just yet, there sure seems to be another pessimistic cloud hanging over the Clippers entering Saturday’s matinee game and trailing 2-1 in the series.
“I mean, I just feel sorry for him,” Russell Westbrook said after the Game 3 loss. “He probably was playing his best basketball in a while, probably the best in the world honestly. It just sucks just for him mentally. That’s first thing I go to. But it was good to see him be around and communicate with us on the bench. Hopefully we can see how he feeling and see what’s next.
“If he’s not back, we have to rally around each other, support each other, find ways to make something happen. It’s a series. First to four. Get ready for Saturday afternoon.”
The Clippers got everything they needed from Norman Powell and Russell Westbrook in Game 3, which is what makes the gut-punch addition of the injury that much harder. Powell scored a playoff-career high 42 points with seven three-pointers while Westbrook added 30 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assist in a nearly flawless second half.
“It’s very deflating,” Tyronn Lue added of Kawhi Leonard’s injury. “I think more so for Kawhi because you have a guy who’s coming off ACL, hasn’t missed a rehab session, eats right, eats clean, does everything he can for his body, works extremely hard to get to this point. Then you have something like this happen. So it’s tough for him, for all the work that he puts in. I feel bad for him.
Our team, like I said, our guys have been through a lot this year, the last two years. For us to compete to get to the point where we made the Playoffs, we feeling pretty good outside of having P.G. out, like I said, when this happens, it’s a blow.”
Game 4 will be Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PST. Both the Clippers and Suns will take a two-day break after that, the last team to do so, before playing Game 5 on Tuesday night back in Phoenix.
If the Clippers are unable to win another game, Tuesday may be the last time we’ll see and get to hear from Tyronn Lue and most of the players.
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