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Clippings: Injuries threaten the consistency of the Clippers

Already missing their number one player, the Clippers can’t afford to let up in the cutthroat Western Conference.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of the season, Clipper fans knew that their team might end up suffering the consequences of lacking a complete squad for most of the season. Even before opening night, it’s safe to say that analysts, players, and fans alike knew that the Clippers’ season would end up being defined by injuries and how they could respond to them.

Paul George and Nicolas Batum have been the most recent casualties, with George being sidelined due to a sprained elbow and Batum sitting out because of an ankle injury. In fact, Batum missed several games as he adhered to COVID-19 protocols prior to that ankle injury, forcing the Clippers to compensate for the two-way versatility that he offers day in and day out. Additionally, players like Marcus Morris and Serge Ibaka have also missed crucial time on the court.

Despite these more recent injuries, the Clippers have not fallen apart in the face of a challenge. They’ve won five of their last seven games, with the most recent three wins being acquired without the offensive and defensive leadership of George. Batum only saw 15 minutes of play in that seven-game stretch before he tweaked his ankle, putting even more pressure on players lower on the depth chart to make an impact when they see the floor. They’ve delivered, as seen in games like their win against the Celtics (where Brandon Boston exploded for 27), but the Clippers have failed to emulate the flow and comfort they visibly possessed during their earlier seven-game win streak.

There may be a saving grace, however—Kawhi Leonard’s brief shoot-around prior to the game against the Jazz shows promise:

Clearly, he’s got a long way to go, but knowing that Klay Thompson and Jamal Murray have been sidelined longer than Leonard with the same injury demonstrates just how important it is to see the tangible effects of recovery. We can only speculate how the Clippers’ situation will be if and when Leonard returns, but the primary challenge is clear: the Clippers will need to play consistently enough in the face of injuries to secure a playoff spot. Only then can the Clippers look to Leonard to bring them closer to the reality of a championship.

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