Kawhi Leonard ruled out with back spasms, leaves arena

LOS ANGELES — Clippers All-Star Kawhi Leonard left Crypto.com Arena in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night because of back spasms, and his status is uncertain for the team’s upcoming back-to-back on the road.

The Clippers said Leonard was suffering from thoracic spasms. According to a source, Leonard went home to rest rather than sit in discomfort at the arena.

Coach Tyronn Lue said Leonard has been dealing with the issue for a couple of days and that the team did not know whether its franchise star would be able to suit up against Minnesota. After Leonard departed, the Clippers blew a 22-point lead and lost 118-100 to the Wolves.

“Wasn’t sure if he was going to go this morning,” Lue said after the game. “But he came to shootaround, got some treatment, did what he had to do and tried to get on the court and played today. It just didn’t loosen up for him.”

Asked whether Leonard will fly with the team on Wednesday for Thursday’s game at the Chicago Bulls — which is followed by Friday’s tilt at the New Orleans Pelicans — Lue said he wasn’t sure.

“I hope so,” Lue said.

Leonard left Tuesday’s contest after playing 12 minutes and scoring six points. He was seen on camera walking gingerly out of the arena before halftime.

This has been Leonard’s healthiest season as a Clipper; he has played in 58 of 64 games so far, his most since joining the franchise in 2019.

But the Clippers are dealing with more than just Leonard’s injury. James Harden is nursing a shoulder injury. He was listed on the injury report with a left shoulder strain before facing the visiting Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks last weekend. Since suiting up after his trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, Harden has not missed a game this season.

“We’ll see tomorrow how it feels,” Harden said.

Leonard played Saturday during the Clippers’ 112-102 win over Chicago. But he and fellow All-Star Paul George sat out Sunday’s 124-117 loss to Milwaukee. Leonard was held out due to left groin soreness, while George sat with left knee soreness.

Both returned to play Tuesday. George finished with 22 points, but the Clippers suffered a complete collapse after Leonard exited.

They led Minnesota 57-35 with 5:13 remaining in the first half only to watch the Wolves outscore them 79-37 to turn the game into a 114-94 rout by the 4:10 mark in the fourth. Minnesota won the season series without injured All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.

“Just being mentally tough,” Lue said of what went wrong for the Clippers. “They’re a good team without KAT. They are going to make runs, and we can’t drop our heads and feel sorry for ourselves. … But just being mentally tougher when things are not going good. There’s a lot of things we didn’t do great.”

“They played tougher than we did, for sure,” the coach continued. “No doubt pisses me off when it comes to that. Just being mentally tougher when stuff gets hard. You got to get tougher.

“We can talk about schemes, we can talk about a lot of other things, but we just got to be tougher mentally, and physically got to be better.”

Anthony Edwards scored 30 points for the Wolves (45-21), and Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 25.

Minnesota is half a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets, who are tied atop the Western Conference standings.

The Clippers (41-23) are fourth in the West, on a two-game skid and unsure whether they will have Leonard for the upcoming trip, all while Harden is also banged up.

“We got to pick up the pieces,” George said. “Let Kawhi take whatever time he needs. We just need him healthy. But we’ll pick it up, keep it rolling. We’re not the only team down a man.”

First appeared on www.espn.com

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