The news the Los Angeles Clippers revealed on Wednesday as they prep to take on the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the NBA playoffs is about as bad as it can get for LA. Their superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out for Game 5 and could miss the rest of the series against the Jazz.
Injuries have taken over this NBA playoffs and have affected players like Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Mike Conley and plenty of others. All missed at least a game in the postseason and now Kawhi Leonard finds himself as part of that group.
Utah is legit. Even without Mike Conley so far this series, the Jazz found ways to win Games 1 and 2. It’s a different beast for LA to face and it gets even tougher without Kawhi Leonard. Here are two reasons why the Jazz should cruise past the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals with Kawhi Leonard injured.
Kawhi is the pulse and engine of this Clippers team
With all due respect to Paul George, the Clippers go as Kawhi goes. George is a great player in his own right, but he’s much more suited to be a Robin than a Batman. Batman is Kawhi Leonard.
Missing a role player is one thing when it comes to the NBA playoffs. Missing your franchise cornerstone is another. The Jazz have found ways to win without Mike Conley but a large part of that has been that their own superstar, Donovan Mitchell, is healthy.
The Clippers don’t have the luxury that the Brooklyn Nets do. Sure James Harden missed a couple of games against the Bucks but, they still had Kyrie Irving and Kevin freaking Durant. And when Irving missed Game 5, Harden was back in the lineup alongside KD. LA doesn’t have a Durant or a Harden to help cope with an injury that is sidelining Kawhi Leonard.
This is even worse than the Lakers missing Anthony Davis. AD missed nearly two full games against the Suns in round one but guess what, the Lakers still had LeBron James. Kawhi is the LeBron of the Clippers, missing him is disastrous for LA. And it opens up the door ever so widely for the Jazz to slide right in and scoop up this series.
There’s never a good time for an injury to be dropped upon a team, but the Clippers really seemed to have gained momentum winning two straight against the Jazz with the series heading back to Utah. Now, with Leonard out for at least one game and likely more, it might be time to pull the curtains down on LA’s season.
The Jazz are built to withstand an injury, LA is not
Again, this depends on who exactly the injury occurs to but, the Jazz have so much depth on their roster.
A lot of the attention goes to the superstar Donovan Mitchell and rightfully so. But Quin Snyder’s squad has so much more.
Rudy Gobert won another NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this year. Jordan Clarkson was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year and Joe Ingles was a finalist for the award as well. Sprinkle in a healthy Mike Conley when he’s available, the sharpshooting of Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neals and Derrick Favors and it’s a jam-packed Jazz lineup.
Having validated roster depth is so critical when injuries pop up. Mike Conley is a tremendous point guard but his absence has gone somewhat unnoticed because the Jazz showed and beat the Clippers twice without him. It’s because they are built to withstand an injury. LA is not.
The Clippers have nice pieces on the roster outside of Leonard and George, but it’s not a roster that is going to blow you away. Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson can heat up like a microwave, Marcus Morris had a really good season shooting the three ball but again, it doesn’t stack up to what they Jazz have behind Donovan Mitchell.
LA will need a herculean type performance from Paul George for every game that Leonard misses and then those secondary pieces will have to play better and more consistent. Morris will have to be better as will Batum, Jackson, and Patrick Beverley. Even then, it may not be enough against the Jazz.
The Kawhi Leonard injury is the worst of the worst for the Clippers and it comes at a time where they seemed to have pieced the puzzle together against the Jazz. Now, without their superstar, they will need some of their ordinary players to be extraordinary to help out Paul George as he tries to go into Batman mode without Leonard.