LOS ANGELES — The LA Clippers ruled Kawhi Leonard out several hours before Game 3 because of a sprained right knee.
Leonard aggravated his right knee during the Clippers’ Game 1 victory and played through the injury in Game 2, won by the Phoenix Suns, a source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Leonard’s injury is not related to the torn right ACL that kept the two-time Finals MVP out all of last season and he is expected to be day-to-day moving forward, the source told Wojnarowski. Game 4 is an early afternoon tip Saturday in Los Angeles.
Already without the injured Paul George (right knee sprain), the Clippers now have the tall task of having to defend home court against the Suns without their two franchise stars as the best-of-seven series stands at 1-1.
The Clippers are just 3-9 this season without Leonard and George. They average 108.2 points per game in games without their two stars compared to 114.4 when either George or Leonard plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Leonard played 42 minutes and had 38 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a 115-110 win at Phoenix in Game 1. When asked about the heavy minutes Leonard logged in the victory, coach Ty Lue said this was why the Clippers carefully brought Leonard’s workload up all season long. Leonard sat out at least one game in back-to-backs until the final two sets of back-to-backs of the season.
“That’s what we’ve been saving up for,” Lue said after Game 1 of how the team managed Leonard. “This moment here in the playoffs, we have to play heavy minutes, especially with PG being out, being shorthanded, and he was great.”
Leonard played 39 minutes and had 31 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Suns’ 123-109 win in Game 2.
The Clippers’ star is averaging 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals while shooting 54.5% from the field in the first round.
Without Leonard, the Clippers will lean even more on Russell Westbrook, who is averaging 18.5 points, 8 rebounds and 6.5 assists.