2024 Playoffs: West First Round | Clippers (4) vs. Mavericks (5)

Kawhi Leonard (knee inflammation) ruled out for Game 4 vs. Mavs

The Clippers' star is dealing with right knee inflammation that sidelined him for the final 8 games of the regular season and Game 1.

Kawhi Leonard’s minutes were limited in Game 3 vs. Mavs due to injury.

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DALLAS – The LA Clippers ruled out star forward Kawhi Leonard for Game 4 of their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks due to right knee inflammation.

LA held off a furious Mavericks’ rally in the final minutes, winning 116-111 to even the series at 2-2. The teams play Game 5 on Wednesday (10 ET, TNT).

Clippers team president Lawrence Frank announced the news Sunday approximately two hours before tipoff and declined to provide a timeline for Leonard’s potential return. The 32-year-old had been dealing with inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee.

“It was clear that he was not himself in Game 3,” Frank said.

Leonard sat out of the series opener, before returning for Game 2 to play 35 minutes in the Clippers’ 96-93 loss to the Mavericks. The two-time Finals MVP missed LA’s last eight regular season games and Game 1 of the postseason to quell the swelling.

Leonard played 25 minutes in the Clippers’ Game 3 loss, scoring nine points with nine rebounds. But it was clear the six-time All-Star hadn’t quite returned to the form that allowed him to play the most regular-season games in his career since 2016-17.

“It’s definitely devastating for Kawhi; all the work he’s put in this year, the amount of games he’s played,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “[He] worked hard to get to this point, to a place he wants to be in the playoffs. Then, to be hurt and not be able to be 100% and play the way he’s capable of playing is very frustrating for him. I feel bad for him.”

Leonard suffered a torn ACL in the 2021 Westen Conference Semifinals and sat out the entire 2021-22 campaign rehabbing before returning for the 2022-23 season. Leonard ended up tearing his meniscus in the first round of the playoffs last year against the Phoenix Suns. The injury forced him out of the final three games of that series.

“We’ve played without Kawhi before,” Lue said. “So, we can’t hang our heads. We understand what it takes, what we have to do, how we need to play, the blueprint. I just thank Kawhi for trying to get out there and trying to do what he can. This team is prepared whether Kawhi plays or [doesn’t] play. We’re up for the challenge.”

Amir Coffey started in Leonard’s place for Game 4, finishing with four points and three rebounds in 24 minutes.

“We have confidence we can win the series,” Lue said. “We’ve prepared for both situations, [for] if Kawhi’s on the floor or if he’s not on the floor.  I know we’ve got a lot of people doubting the situation. But we feel good about what we’ve done. We’re prepared.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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