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Clippers Reveal Kawhi Leonard’s Status for Game 5

Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out for Game 5 vs the Mavericks.

On Sunday night, the LA Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 116-111 in a barnburner on national TV in primetime. Their victory evened the series at 2-2. Remarkably, they did it without their top star and franchise face Kawhi Leonard. Now, they must repeat the feat at least once more. Leonard has officially been declared out for Wednesday’s decisive game 5 in LA. Can the Clippers overcome the Mavericks with Kawhi out?

Clippers Reveal Kawhi Leonard’s Status for Game 5

Kawhi Leonard Injury Details

Yesterday, the Clippers declared Leonard out due to right knee inflammation. This is a lingering issue for Leonard. During the 2021-2022 playoffs, he injured his right knee severely and required major surgery to fix it. Somehow, the Clippers still made it to the WCF that year off of the skill of Paul George and bailouts from “Big Government”, Reggie Jackson. Game 5 will be Leonard’s third game missed of the series, having previously missed games 1 and 4. He also missed the last 8 games of the season due to the same knee issues. It is an unfortunate turn for Leonard, who was unusually durable this season. He played in 68 games this season, his highest seasonal total since 2016-2017 when he was in San Antonio.

Unfortunately for the Clippers and Leonard, inflammation is an unpredictable issue. The inflammation could go down tomorrow or it could take weeks. There are two major types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation will go down within hours or days. Unfortunately, Leonard seemingly has the other type, chronic inflammation as a result of his knee injury 3 years ago. This can take much longer to resolve and it is almost guaranteed that he will miss the rest of the series, if not the rest of the playoffs.

Game 5 Preview

Leonard’s absence will certainly be a massive blow to the Clippers in relation to their full potential. However, it is unlikely to fully sink their chances in this series. The Clippers won both of the previous games when Leonard was out. Additionally, they lost both of the games when Leonard played. These losses are because Leonard was clearly not at full strength while playing in games 2 and 3. He averaged 12 PPG on terrible efficiency, as compared to his season averages of 23.7 PPG on great efficiency. He was clearly limited on defense, as well as playmaking and rebounding. This wasn’t the superstar MVP-level showing that many were used to from Leonard. Honestly, Leonard probably wasn’t even at half-strength during his time on the court in games 2 and 3. There is no doubt that Leonard is an amazing player, however, having him on the court at a quarter of his full strength taking minutes and possessions away from healthy players is a net negative for the team. If he is limited, being fully out is the best solution for all parties involved (except the Mavericks).

Last Word on Clippers vs. Mavs

Furthermore, all the talk about Leonard’s absence has disguised the fact that the Clippers don’t really need him to beat the Mavericks. A starting five of James Harden, George, Ivica Zubac, Terrence Mann, and Amir Coffey is really, good. Due to their status as second options to Leonard, many people forget that Harden and George are superstars in their own right. Harden was a one-man offensive system in Houston, unlike anyone before or since. George was once regarded as the future of the league and was an MVP candidate as the leader of the Pacers and Thunder. That’s two MVP-caliber stars backed up by a solid two-way center and two great defense-focused role players. That’s better than the uninjured starting lineups of many playoff teams. This doesn’t even take into account their bench, which is one of the best in the league, led by one-time MVP Russell Westbrook and 6MOTY candidate Norman Powell.

Furthermore, this iteration of the Clippers just has the Mavericks’ number. They’ve beaten the Luka Doncic-led Mavs twice in the last 4 years. More recently, they won both games one and four without Leonard. They match up well in pace and style as well as personnel. Leonard’s absence will be challenging for sure, but far too many fans and analysts are writing off this series when it isn’t even close to over.

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