The Los Angeles Clippers are in the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately, they've been forced to play every game of the series without Kawhi Leonard, who suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of the conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz and has been sidelined ever since.
The Clippers, trailing 3-2 after extending the series with a Game 5 win, will be without Leonard again for Game 6. The team had previously announced that Leonard suffered a right knee sprain that would keep him sidelined indefinitely, but the injury may be more severe than that. The Clippers fear Leonard is dealing with an ACL injury, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. That would be far more detrimental to the Clippers both this season and next if that's the case. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Leonard will at least miss the remainder of the Western Conference finals, but he could return for the NBA Finals if the Clippers advance that far.
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Leonard injured his knee after landing awkwardly on a drive to the basket during the fourth quarter of Los Angeles' Game 4 win, which forced him to come out of the game after trying to play on it. The injury occurred with 5:25 minutes remaining in the game, when Leonard was coming down in a fast break opportunity. Jazz guard Joe Ingles intentionally fouled Leonard to stop the play, but when he bumped into him, Leonard was thrown off balance as he was trying to plant his foot. After the foul was called, Leonard immediately began hopping up and down on his left leg, and was bent over while standing and trying to stretch and massage out his right knee.
Here's the play where the injury occurred:
The Clippers weren't in the bonus yet, so after the foul on Ingles, they took the ball out and Jazz guard Bojan Bogdanovic fouled Leonard as he was going up for a mid-range jumper. Before taking his free throws -- both of which he missed -- Leonard was still stretching out his right knee, and after a few more possessions, he came out of the game with 4:35 remaining.
After the game, when asked about his knee, Leonard was very short in his response, saying "It's good, next question." However, it's clear the injury is far more serious than Leonard let on.
The Clippers were able to advance past Utah without Leonard for the final two games of that series, but he has been missed in the series against the Suns so far. Up until the injury the All-Star forward had been spectacular for Los Angeles in the playoffs and averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 11 games.