Clippers' Kawhi Leonard Faces Uncertain Injury Status for Game 3 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard is considered questionable to play in Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Apr 23, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up
Apr 23, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – The Los Angeles Clippers were defeated 96-93 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series despite Kawhi Leonard making his return after dealing with right knee inflammation.

In his return to the lineup, Leonard scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had four steals in 35 minutes. He shot 41.2% from the floor and missed all five 3-point attempts. Just as he was entering Game 2, he's considered questionable to play ahead of Friday's Game 3.

"Just keep trying to get a rhythm back and obviously try to win a basketball game," Leonard said after Game 2. "We got pretty stagnant tonight in that fourth quarter. I want to just be able to get a rhythm with the team and get a win."

Apr 23, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up
Apr 23, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

As a team, the Clippers did not go through contact elements of practice on Thursday, so Leonard again did not participate in contact during practice. Los Angeles remains confident in Leonard returning to form sooner rather than later.

"Kawhi is one of the best in the world," Paul George said after Game 2. "He's going to find his rhythm. We're going to find our rhythm around him. We feel good about it."

The Clippers intend to work make it easier for Leonard to operate offensively as he works to establish a rhythm for himself. He was often attacking out of isolation against a physical defender with help defense waiting to protect the paint, resulting in tough pull-ups often being taken.

"Timing of when he's getting there, how he's getting [to spots], I think understanding the rhythm of the offense and getting that flow back," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after Thursday's practice. "I don't think it necessarily means more shots. I just think it means like, the time and when he's getting to his spots, how he's getting to his spots and things like that."

One of the strategic shortcomings the Clippers experienced that contributed to their stagnant offense was the overemphasis on hunting Luka Doncic in screening actions. Whether he guarded James Harden, George, or Leonard, Doncic was getting stops consistently.

“I thought we maybe got a little too stagnate, trying to attack him,” Lue said Thursday. “He did a good job. He sat down. He took the challenge and he really defended. Kyrie did the same thing. “It changes their team a lot. Kyrie’s picking up full-court. Luka’s taking the one-on-one challenge. . . When your best players step up and do that, it means a lot. It sets a tone for your team.”

The Mavericks are dealing with a few injuries to rotation players of their own—including starting center Daniel Gafford being considered questionable to play in Game 3 due to back spasms. Tim Hardaway Jr. has already been ruled out due to a right ankle sprain and will be evaluated "in a few days," as Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters after Thursday's practice.


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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.