Kawhi Leonard (knee) ruled out for Game 3
The Los Angeles Clippers opened as 3.5-point underdogs against the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. However, DraftKings Sportsbook now has the Suns listed as 7-point favorites, as it was announced on Thursday, April 20th that Kawhi Leonard will be out for this game with knee soreness — and is considered day-to-day for Game 4 on Saturday, April 22nd.
Leonard has been dealing with injuries for years now, and he is one of the top players that comes to mind when you think of “load management.” But this news was still rather surprising to everybody. Leonard has been tremendous throughout this series, as he had 38 points in a Game 1 victory and followed it up with 31 points in a Game 2 loss. Adrian Wojnarowski noted that Leonard played through the injury in Game 2, but it was hard to tell with the eye test. Leonard was extremely efficient as a scorer in that one, and it didn’t look like anything was bothering him.
This injury is a brutal blow for Los Angeles right now. The Clippers stole home-court advantage by taking Game 1 in this series, and they were weathering the storm nicely without Paul George, who is out for the series. However, defeating a team with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant is going to be very difficult with Leonard and George on the sidelines. With that in mind, the Clippers need to get Leonard back as soon as possible. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Los Angeles dropped Game 3 and got Leonard back for Game 4 but losing the next two games would very likely put an end to the Clippers’ season — which could also mean the end of the Leonard-George pairing.
The Suns were -500 favorites to win this series before Game 1, but those odds dropped significantly after the Clippers went into Phoenix and won the series opener. Now, Phoenix is a -525 favorite to advance to the next round. And all things considered, that number sounds about right with this Clippers team now missing its two best players. Los Angeles is going to have a very hard time scoring efficiently without two guys that create offense as well as anyone. And the Clippers’ depth, which was once a strength, will be tested with two key pieces out.
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