Kawhi Leonard sits out with sickness as Clippers fall to Heat

No panic. Seemingly nothing to stress about. Simply the Clippers’ franchise participant lacking one other sport for a brand new purpose.

Kawhi Leonard sat out towards the Miami Heat on Monday evening at Crypto.com Area due to an sickness. The group made a degree of claiming Covid wasn’t the offender, however there may be loads of different nasty stuff going round this winter.

The Clippers constantly go for protected over sorry with Leonard, who has performed in solely 16 of the Clippers’ 39 video games this season and 125 of 203 regular-season video games since signing with the group forward of the 2019-2020 season.

Regardless that the Clippers are 11-5 with him and 10-13 with out him this season — in addition to an astonishing 88-37 with him and 22-43 with out him in three seasons — Leonard-less doesn’t essentially imply rudderless.

Regardless that the Heat dominated the waning minutes and gained 110-100, the Clippers didn’t come away totally empty-handed. Their roster is deep, and each time Leonard is out — knee and ankle accidents have sidelined him this season, to not point out nods to load administration — coach Tyronn Lue is afforded one other alternative to experiment.

The courtroom turns into Lue’s laboratory as he mixes and matches reserves with starters, peak with quickness, expertise with youth, attempting out contemporary combos till a number of produce one thing approaching alchemy.

He’ll seemingly sacrifice a handful of regular-season video games in a quest to solidify combos that may stay rock-solid by the pains of the postseason. 13 completely different gamers have began video games and 13 gamers common greater than 11 minutes a sport.

The Clippers are 21-18 and in sixth place within the Western Convention, amid a cluster of groups retaining their heads above .500. So long as the experimenting doesn’t jeopardize an affordable playoff seeding, count on Lue to proceed along with his mad-scientist routine.

Though he’ll emphasize defensive depth with everybody.

“The last five or six games that urgency hasn’t been there,” Lue mentioned. “We have to play better defense or it doesn’t matter who is on the floor.”

Terance Mann began rather than Leonard towards the Heat, who on Dec. 8 defeated the Clippers in Miami behind a mixed 57 factors from their two superstars — Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Leonard didn’t play in that sport both, resting a sore knee.

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro drives to the basket towards Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) in the course of the first half on Monday at Crypto.com Area.

(Allison Dinner / Related Press)

All issues thought-about, even Mann would have most popular Leonard within the lineup.

“It’s hard,” Mann mentioned. “Injuries in and out, you think you have something going, then one goes down, one comes back, you lose one, you get one. So we lack the consistency to string 10 games together where we are locked in and everybody is healthy.”

The Clippers trailed till pulling even 40-40 halfway by the second quarter on Nicolas Batum’s three-pointer. The Heat scored the following 9 factors, nonetheless, and led 67-49 at halftime. The Clippers answered resoundingly within the third quarter, outscoring the Heat 34-14 to take an 83-81 lead highlighted by 4 consecutive threes — three by Paul George and one by Marcus Morris Sr.

The lineup that dominated the third quarter was the identical that fell behind within the first quarter. Lue identified the distinction.

“I thought our physicality really picked up and our defensive urgency picked up,” Lue mentioned, particularly pointing to Mann as a difference-maker on protection. “It was pretty much our starting lineup that made it happen.”

None of Lue’s experimenting modifications the truth that the Clippers have nearly no probability of profitable their first NBA championship with out Leonard enjoying massive minutes at full power. With him and George on the ground collectively, the Clippers are 9-5 this season. Not solely are they elite scorers, they play glorious protection and free teammates to imagine appropriately complementary roles.

George typically thrives when joined by Leonard. He scored 45 factors with 9 rebounds and three steals in a 131-130 loss to Indiana on Saturday. With out Leonard on Monday, he scored 9 factors on three-of-eight taking pictures within the first half earlier than igniting within the third quarter with 13 factors and ending with a team-high 25 factors.

The Clippers are again on the highway to play the first-place Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Their home-heavy schedule to begin the season is over and the opponents for probably the most half will likely be harder. Level guard Reggie Jackson famous that the season is nearing the midway level, and recognized a draw back to the avalanche of experimenting with completely different lineup combos.

“The calendar turned to 2023 and we need to start playing with more urgency,” mentioned Jackson, who together with Mann, George, Morris and heart Ivica Zubac began the sport and triggered the third-quarter rally. “It’s us not figuring out our system yet. We still have to figure it out… The season is moving quickly, it’s a new year, 2023, and we don’t have as much time as we want.”