Clippers rule out Kawhi Leonard (knee) for Game 4

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers will be missing their top two players again when they attempt to level their first-round Western Conference series against the visiting Phoenix Suns in Game 4 on Saturday.

Kawhi Leonard will miss his second straight game due to a right knee sprain, the team announced Friday. Paul George, who has yet to appear in the series, also is still sidelined because of a right knee injury.

Leonard was scratched before Game 3 on Thursday, and the Clippers lost 129-124 in their first home game in the best-of-seven series.

“It’s very deflating,” Lue said Thursday. “I think more so for Kawhi, because you have a guy who’s coming off ACL, hasn’t missed a rehab session, eats right, eats clean, does everything he can for his body, works extremely hard to get to this point. Then you have something like this happen. So it’s tough for him, for all the work that he puts in. I feel bad for him.”

Los Angeles director of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said Leonard injured his right knee in Game 1 and played with minor pain in Game 2. Leonard averaged 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in the first two games, but Frank said the knee issue worsened before Game 3.

Frank also said Thursday the Clippers aren’t counting on George’s return. George “has made progress” rehabbing a sprained right knee but is not expected to play in the series.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of the team’s approach without Leonard and George, “Just be a little smarter. I think the biggest thing is taking care of the basketball, continue to attack the paint, attack these guys and then our physicality.”

Los Angeles guard Russell Westbrook felt Leonard still gave the team some life being on the bench and communicating with players during the game as if part of the coaching staff. The tight turnaround to an afternoon game Saturday means Los Angeles has minimal time to negotiate personnel possibilities.

“If he’s not back, we have to rally around each other, support each other, find ways to make something happen,” Westbrook said. “It’s a series. First to four. Get ready for Saturday afternoon.”

Leonard, 31, is a two-time NBA Finals MVP.

–Field Level Media

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