Kawhi Leonard ruled out with knee issue as Clippers win without him again to even series with Mavs

Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington, left, defends as Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) works to the basket during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 26, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard was ruled out of Sunday's Game 4 of a first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, with no timetable for his return from right knee inflammation.

The Clippers won without Leonard again, holding on for a 116-111 victory after winning the series opener. Leonard played in the second and third games of the series after missing nine consecutive games, including the final eight of the regular season.

The six-time All-Star never looked comfortable in the Clippers' 101-90 loss in Game 3, finishing with nine points on just seven shots, his fewest in a playoff game in 10 years. Leonard played 25 minutes as Dallas took a 2-1 series lead.

“When you watch him play, it was very obvious that is not Kawhi Leonard,” team president Lawrence Frank said before the game, calling the injury “tricky."

Frank added the Clippers don't know when the 32-year-old's surgically repaired knee might be ready for a game.

LA won the series opener without Leonard, with James Harden scoring 28 points and going 6 of 11 from 3-point range. They did it again in Game 4, with Harden and Paul George each scoring 33 points and playing big fourth-quarter roles after the Clippers blew a 31-point lead.

“We’ve played without Kawhi before,” coach Tyronn Lue said before the game. “We can’t hang our heads. We understand what it takes, what we have to do, how we need to play, the blueprint. And we prepared for both situations. Just thank Kawhi for trying to get out there and trying to do what he can.”

Leonard played 68 regular-season games, the most for the two-time NBA champion since the 2016-17 season in San Antonio. The knee flared up before LA's first April game.

“It’s definitely devastating for Kawhi, all the work he’s put in this year and the amount of games he’s played and worked hard to get to this point, to the place he wants to be in the playoffs,” Lue said. “And then to be hurt and not be able to be 100% and play the way he’s capable of playing. I feel bad for him.”

Leonard, who missed all of 2021-22 with a knee injury, averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season and is considered one of the team's best defenders. He has career playoff averages of 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

“It's frustrating for the players, for the organization, for the fans,” Lue said. “We understand that. It is what it is. Injuries are part of sports. There's a lot of great players, not just Kawhi, that's out right now during the playoffs as well. Every team is going through it.”

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA