Los Angeles Clippers superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard will miss Tuesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers — and likely more. Just hours before tip-off, the team told reporters Leonard has soreness in his right foot and will be reevaluated “next week.”
Erring on the Side of Caution
Leonard is no stranger to injury this season. Tuesday’s contest against Portland will be the Clippers’ 16th without the five-time All-Star in the 2020-21 season.
The issues with foot soreness came up on March 25 when Leonard missed the second leg of a back-to-back with the San Antonio Spurs. In the first game of the set he put up an efficient 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting in a tremendous defensive effort to defeat the Spurs 134-101. The next day however, head coach Tyronn Lue said the Clippers wanted “to be cautious” with the soreness.
Leonard sat just one game before returning to action on March 27 against the Philadelphia 76ers. He played well over the next two weeks before missing four more games from April 11-16, with the first being attributed to a rest day. Lue reiterated to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the team was once again “leaning toward the cautious side” while holding Leonard out. Luke Kennard started all four games in Leonard’s place.
Leonard returned to the Staples Center on Sunday in the Clippers’ matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he scored 15 points and racked up 11 rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor.
It’s yet to be reported whether the Clippers are once again being cautious by holding Leonard out or if there is cause for concern with the injury. The team announced he will be reevaluated next week, implying Leonard will likely be held out for at least Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies and Friday’s game at the Houston Rockets.
PG13 to the Rescue
Luckily for Los Angeles, Paul George has picked up the slack with Leonard missing time.
George has averaged 32.8 points in his last six games. As the primary scorer he’s taken eight three’s per game, making four of them and he’s been incredibly efficient, posting shooting splits over the 40/50/90 marks as of late.
With Kennard slotting in as small forward for the next week, George will likely still handle a bulk of the scoring duties in Leonard’s absence. Expect him to continue his hot streak.
More Injury News
Match-ups between the Clippers and Blazers are typically star-studded affairs. Tuesday night’s TNT prime-time game has unfortunately lost some of its luster.
In addition to Leonard, the Clippers will still be without two other key contributors.
Serge Ibaka, who hasn’t played since March 14, is still out with a back injury. There is no time table to return. Patrick Beverley is still unavailable after undergoing surgery on his left hand on April 9. He’ll likely be out at least two more weeks before he is reevaluated. The Clippers’ officially signed NBA veteran Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day deal Tuesday, and the 27-year-old will serve as a solid backcourt depth piece until Beverley can return to action.
On Portland’s side, the Blazers will be without two of their biggest playmakers.
Damian Lillard will miss his third consecutive game Tuesday night. He’s recovering from right hamstring tendinopathy and there is currently no timetable for his return. Lillard has struggled against the Clippers this season, averaging 15.5 points on just 17% shooting in the teams’ two meetings this season.
Portland will also be without Jusuf Nurkic, who will rest on the front end of a back-to-back. The Blazers’ big man has played just 22 games this season after missing time with a wrist injury. He’s been nursing right knee inflammation since April 6, and the “injury management” designation indicates that the team is simply offering him some rest.