After missing nine of the LA Clippers’ last 10 games due to a sore right foot, All-Star Kawhi Leonard will make his return on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets, according to Head Coach Tyronn Lue.
The Clippers went 6-3 in Leonard’s absence, including a pivotal loss to the now no. 1-seeded Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. The Clippers now sit just a half-game above the Nuggets in the standings as the no. 3 seed, making Saturday’s matchup about as crucial as it gets. If there were any game for Leonard to make his long-awaited return, it would be this one. A loss would mean LA slides down to the no. 4 seed, and if the standings remain the same until the postseason, it would mean a Lakers-Clippers first round matchup. The Clippers still have seven games remaining after this Nuggets matchup, with only two of those games against above-.500 teams, so they still hold some power over who they’ll face in round one. Still, a win against Denver would give them a much-needed cushion.
Lue didn’t mention anything about a minutes restriction during his pregame interview, but it’s safe to assume Leonard will not be going full throttle after missing nearly three weeks of action. LA will need yet another big performance out of Paul George if the Clippers hope to overthrow the MVP frontrunner in Nikola Jokic.
Lue confirmed the Clippers starting lineup to be Reggie Jackson, George, Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac. The game tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPN.