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Clippers' Kawhi Leonard says knee 'didn't respond' as hoped; condition in the air

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DALLAS – LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said the inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee did not respond as he had hoped after Game 2, and after missing 25 minutes in Friday's 101-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Leonard's status is for Sunday's game, Game 4 is in question.

Leonard had nine points and nine rebounds but didn't look like his normal self in Game 3 at American Airlines Center. With their franchise player limited, the Clippers fell apart and now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Leonard was asked if he can play Sunday afternoon with less than 48 hours between Games 3 and 4.

“Yes,” Leonard said. “Right now, I'll see how it feels tomorrow. But I want to play.”

Leonard missed 23 days with inflammation in his right knee and sat out the final eight games of the regular season and Game 1 of this first round against Dallas.

He logged 35 minutes in his return Tuesday, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a 96-93 loss at Los Angeles in Game 2.

Head coach Ty Lue said Thursday that Leonard came out of Game 2 feeling good. But Leonard acknowledged after Game 3 that his knee “just didn't respond the way we wanted” after his return.

“But we're going to do it right,” Leonard said. 'Time will tell. But we're doing the right things.'

Lawrence Frank, the Clippers' president of basketball operations, had described the inflammation as “unpredictable” and “stubborn.”

Leonard tore his ACL in the second round of 2021. He came back and then tore his meniscus in the first round of last postseason against Phoenix, missing the final three games of the five-game series.

Frank said Leonard's surgically repaired ACL and meniscus in the knee were structurally sound, but the inflammation was problematic.

On Friday night, Leonard threw down two dunks in the second half, including one on an alley-oop. But there were times when he looked like he was missing his usual burst while running around the field. He played just 10 minutes in the first half and sat for the final 3:01 of the second quarter.

Lue said he didn't think Leonard felt anything new from his injury, but the team is trying to deal with it.

Leonard was asked if the inflammation has returned.

“It was pretty good,” Leonard said. “The first game didn't respond the way we wanted. And tonight it was either limited minutes or not playing. And I wanted to be on the floor to help the team and that's what the results are.”

“Frustrating that it happened to me so late in the season, but we will continue. We will do well.”

With Leonard unable to play his usual minutes and Paul George in foul trouble, Lue had to adjust his rotations and play 44 minutes against James Harden (21 points, 5 assists).

George said the team can see how hard Leonard is trying to fight his way back from his knee injury.

“We all want the best for him,” said George, who was limited to seven points due to foul trouble. “He's struggling with the fact that he can't be here 100 percent for us, but we have to cover, pick up the slack and appreciate what he's given us.

“He's still trying to adapt and give us what he can. I definitely feel for him knowing he's worked hard and again to get to this point where we want to make a (playoff) push and he can't be 100 percent.” straight away.”

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