Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN dropped twin bombs this afternoon, announcing that Kawhi Leonard would miss Game 3 against the Suns. Per Woj, Kawhi aggravated his knee in Game 1, aggravated it in Game 2, and is now game-to-game for Game 4 as well.
This is obviously a massive blow. Kawhi Leonard has been the best player in the series so far, and with Paul George out as well, a Clippers’ victory in Game 3 seems unlikely, with the Clippers taking massive blows on offense and defense. The only good news is that the knee injury is not related to his ACL tear from two years ago, and that it’s possible he will be back for Game 4.
With Kawhi Leonard out, I’d guess one of Terance Mann or Norm Powell will step into the starting unit in his stead. Norm would offer the most scoring punch and creation, but would make the Clippers very small. Mann adds defense and keeps some size, but would cramp spacing and make the offense even more Russell Westbrook heavy than it will already be. I think there’s also at least a chance Marcus Morris starts over Nic Batum to add more scoring, but I’d consider that unlikely.
With one of Norm or Mann in the starting unit, Morris and the seemingly forgotten Robert Covington are options to be added to the bench unit, though it’s also possible that Ty Lue simply goes with a tight 8 man rotation. I’d bet on Morris getting minutes over RoCo, both because of Ty’s preferences and for the true need of some shot creation. It’s also possible both see minutes to expand the rotation, or that the Clippers go small more to try to juice their offense.
Kawhi Leonard being out for Game 3 is a crushing blow. The Clippers were already at a talent disadvantage, and that gap will now be a chasm. To win this one they will need a superstar Russ game, fantastic play from role players, and a hot shooting night. It’s not impossible, as the Clippers are at home and do have depth, but without Kawhi the job will be much, much tougher at both end. Let’s just hope the injury isn’t serious and he’s back for Game 4.