ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that Kawhi Leonard will not play in Game 5 against the Jazz because of a knee injury. His status for the rest of the series is in doubt.
The Clippers have fought back to even their series with the Utah Jazz but the level of difficulty is going up. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that he suffered a knee injury late in Game 4 and will not play in Game 5 Wednesday night. It’s possible that he could be out for the rest of the series.
Can the Clippers advance without Kawhi Leonard?
Having to push ahead without Kawhi would be an enormous challenge for the Clippers. They still have Paul George but Leonard has been their most important offensive player, by far. He’s leading the team in usage rate during the postseason and ranks second on the team in assist percentage behind Rajon Rondo, averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game, on a 67.9 true shooting percentage.
The Utah Jazz present a unique challenge for the Clippers even when fully healthy, but losing Kawhi has both offensive and defensive ramifications. His mid-range prowess has been extremely helpful in neutralizing Rudy Gobert’s presence in the paint and Utah’s wealth of creators and outside shooters require a deep cast of perimeter defenders.
Winning Game 5 tonight, on the road, would give the Clippers some breathing room and some time for Kawhi to get healthy. But he is notoriously careful with his body and the fact that reports specifically mention his status for the series being in doubt is troubling. If the Clippers are able to stretch things to a Game 7, it would be played on Sunday. A hypothetical series win without Kawhi would give them until at least Tuesday before the beginning of the Western Conference Finals.