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Kawhi Leonard’s playing status for Clippers revealed before Game 6 vs Jazz

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, Jazz

It’s not a surprise, but it is still newsworthy: Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers will not play in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Utah Jazz on Friday.

The Clippers listed Leonard as being out for Game 6, when the Clips will try to clinch their first-ever berth in the Western Conference Finals.

The 2021 NBA playoffs have been defined by their fragility and the centrality of attrition in nearly every series. Superstar players have either missed playoff games or played in pain, if not both: Anthony Davis and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers were affected. Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks was affected, albeit not to the same degree. Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets missed the playoffs due to a regular season injury. Donovan Mitchell is much less than 100 percent for the Jazz, who have played five games against the Clippers without an injured Mike Conley Jr.

While the Clippers contend for the Western Conference title, lots of carnage has emerged in the East as well: Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, De’Andre Hunter of the Atlanta Hawks, and Donte DiVincenzo of the Milwaukee Bucks have been hurt, with Hunter and DiVincenzo being out for extended periods of time (both were ruled out for the rest of the season earlier this spring).

Kyrie Irving has missed multiple games for the Brooklyn Nets, as has teammate James Harden. On and on it goes. It is noticeable that the Phoenix Suns have been, all things considered, comparatively healthier than their opponents. Entering Thursday night, they are the one team that has advanced to the conference finals. The Clippers and everyone else can do the math on this one.

The Clippers stand on the brink of a long-awaited achievement on Friday night in the Staples Center. Six years ago, they led the Houston Rockets 3-2 in Game 6 at home. They had a double-digit lead midway through the game. However, they crumbled in the last one and a half quarters, watching Corey Brewer and Josh Smith torch them while James Harden sat on the bench for several minutes.

The Rockets won Game 6 and then closed out the Clippers in Game 7.

Five years later, in the Orlando bubble, the Clippers led the Nuggets 3-1 in the West semifinals and then imploded, losing double-digit leads in Games 5 and 6 before getting outplayed in Game 7.

When the Clippers learned that Kawhi Leonard would be out for Game 5 in Salt Lake City against the Jazz, it seemed that the Clipper Curse had struck again. However, Paul George scored 37 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in one of the best performances of his career. With help from Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. in particular, George led the Clips to a 119-111 win in Utah which has brought LA to this point.

The Clippers aren’t surprised to learn that Kawhi won’t play. This was an expected piece of news. Yet, it is still a reminder that Los Angeles will have to do this the hard way, without its best player and proven superstar.

Game 6 is Friday night after the East semifinal Game 6 between the Sixers and Hawks.