The Los Angeles Clippers will be without superstar Kawhi Leonard for Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Utah Jazz, and may lose him for the remainder of the second-round series.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the news about Leonard’s knee injury, which he suffered in the Clippers’ Game 4 victory to even the series at two games apiece:
Shams Charania of The Athletic later reported that the Clippers are fearful Leonard suffered an ACL injury.
This comes on the heels of Chris Paul entering the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols for the Phoenix Suns, as the Western Conference bracket is being thrown for a complete loop.
Leonard has done all he can in recent years to rest up during the regular season in a strategy termed “load management” so that he can be as fresh as possible for the playoffs. Unfortunately, one wrong step may cost him a chance to help the Clippers close out the top-seeded Jazz.
Los Angeles has had all the momentum of late after digging itself a 2-0 hole against Utah, but losing Leonard is a blow the squad probably can’t overcome. Paul George will be the primary catalyst for the Clips’ offense, and while he’s flashed nicely as a playmaker and distributor, it’ll be a monumental task to defeat the Jazz.
Per StatMuse, the Clippers went 11-9 without Leonard during the regular season, but part of the appeal of his arrival in LA was how clutch he could be in the postseason. As an NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, Leonard has proven time and again how great he can be when it matters most.
For the 2021 NBA playoffs, Leonard is averaging 30.4 points per game on 57.3% shooting. He downplayed his knee injury after Game 4. Sadly, with him hurt, LA is in danger of being bounced in the conference semifinals for the second straight year.