LOS ANGELES — The Clippers star wattage was dimmed significantly Sunday night, when Kawhi Leonard joined Paul George on the shelf.
Leonard was sidelined with a left lower leg contusion; Paul George missed his fifth consecutive game with what’s being classified as bone edema in a right toe.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he didn’t know when Leonard’s injury occurred of what his prognosis was — or what George’s is either, for that matter. George did do some shooting before Sunday’s game.
“I’m not sure, but it happened on this road trip,” Lue said of Leonard’s contusion, noting that he just learned he’d miss the game Sunday. “I’m not quite sure when it happened or when he’s gonna be back.
And “with all the news with Kawhi, I didn’t get a chance to talk to Paul yet,” Lue added, “but I will get to talk to (President of Basketball Operations) Lawrence (Frank) soon as I get done doing this, so we’ll see.”
The two starring wings are averaging 51.1 points between them — 44% of the team’s scoring.
And in the past four games with out George, Leonard has increased his offensive output, averaging 29.3 points, shooting 51.2% from the field.
“One person can’t make up the points we’re missing,” Lue said before the Clippers tipped off against Cleveland at Staples Center. “But we want to play hard, we want to compete and continue to play the right way.”
With both out, Lue said Lou Williams would join the starting unit and play alongside Reggie Jackson, Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka.
Lue said he hoped Williams — typically the Clippers’ leading Sixth Man — would be able to “generate more scoring, generate pace, be able to get downhill and create plays for our other guys” in his first start this season.
The Clippers are 1-1 so far when they’ve had to play without both Leonard and George — who currently rank third and fifth among Western Conference vote-getters in fan voting for the All-Star Game. L.A. split its first two games of its recent six-game road trip, when the stars were out in accordance with the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols.
“In Miami, you know we just looked for different lineups to find that energy and the bench guys came in and did a great job for us,” Lue said, referencing the Clippers’ rousing rally from 18 points down to beat the Heat on Jan. 28.
“So we just want to continue to keep building great habits, and these guys are, you know, they’re ready for that, they’ve been doing it so we want to continue it tonight.”
Sunday’s game was the eighth that George missed this season; the Clippers were 3-4 without him entering action Sunday.
Leonard missed his fifth game. L.A. entered Sunday’s game with a 2-2 mark in contests without the Klaw — two of which were, like Sunday’s, half of a back-to-back set.
After he avoided playing a full back-to-back the previous two seasons while dealing with what the NBA reported was an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee, Leonard has played in two back-to-back sets so far this season and missed two others.
A mouth laceration kept Leonard — the league’s 10th-leading scorer, at 26.7 points per game — out of a game against Minnesota on Dec. 29, the night before they faced Portland. Health and safety protocols kept him from playing in Miami, the day before the Clippers played in Orlando.
The Clippers play host to Miami on Monday at Staples Center in the second game of a five-games-in-eight-days homestand that started Sunday.
Lue said he was optimistic the Clippers would stick to the script, even without their go-to guys.
“We want to play with pace, we want to get into the paint and share basketball as much as possible and continue to focus on our defense, our foundation and what we’re trying do every night,” Lue said. “So we know guys are out, we want to still continue to try to play the same way and build good habits.”