The Los Angeles Clippers evened their Western Conference semifinals series against the Utah Jazz, 2-2, winning 118-104 on Monday night. Superstar Kawhi Leonard tied with Paul George for a team-high 31 points, but after Kawhi exited the game with four minutes remaining and did not return, a few questions arose about whether the Clippers forward’s knee was OK.
Leonard was fouled hard by Jazz guard Joe Ingles late in the fourth quarter, hitting his knee in an attempt to get a shot off. When he went to the line to shoot his free throws, Kawhi appeared to be uncomfortable, wincing slightly as he shot the ball. He left the game shortly after the Ingles foul and did not return.
Kawhi: ‘I’m Good…Next Question’
When the media asked him how his knee was feeling after the game, the succinct exchange went like this:
“I’m good,” Leonard replied. A follow-up question along the lines of: “So, you’re good?” was asked, and without missing a beat, Leonard replied: “Yeah, next question.”
Usually short and sweet in his postgame conversations with the press, Leonard clearly didn’t want to get into details, but his head coach didn’t seem to think it was anything was too serious.
“I think so,” Clippers head coach Ty Lue said when asked if Kawhi’s knee was OK after the game. “We’ll know more after the game but yeah, I think everybody is pretty good.”
The Latest on Kawhi’s Knee
A few hours after the Clippers’ Game 4 victory, one prominent team insider shared an encouraging update about Leonard’s knee issue:
“Kawhi Leonard’s knee is all good, and he was sitting out in the final four minutes out of precaution. I asked around and had it confirmed,” Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated Tweeted in the wee hours of the morning after the game.
That has to make Clipper Nation breathe a collective sigh of relief. Leonard has been lights out in the series against the Jazz, averaging 27.3 points a game and putting the Clips on his back in key moments. They’ll need him healthy and feeling good if they want to conquer the top-seeded Jazz.
For his part, Leonard says communication will be key for the Clips if they want to finish this series on top.
“We just got to see what we’ve been doing these last couple games and just keep moving forward. We’ve got to watch and talk to the guys and see what we need to do,” Kawhi said after the game, noting he has only one primary goal in mind.
“I don’t care about the Western Conference Finals. We’re trying to win the Championship.”
Lue agrees. “Just have an attack mentality, that’s what we have to do,” the Clippers coach said. “Can’t let this team off the hook. We have to make these guys defend us. We know how we want to play and what we want to do.”