NBA regular season

Clippers open six-game road trip without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

Reuters
Clippers open six-game road trip without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

TANDEM. Paul George (left) and Kawhi Leonard will not see action against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, January 26.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/ USA TODAY Sports/ Reuters

The NBA rules out Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George due to NBA health and safety protocols

The Los Angeles Clippers take their seven-game winning streak on the road this week, starting a six-game road trip in Atlanta on Tuesday, January 26.

But they’ll be starting it without all-stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who were both ruled out on Monday, January 25, due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The tandem did not join the team on its flight to Atlanta on Monday, ESPN reported.

Los Angeles will also be without point guard Patrick Beverley due to right knee soreness.

The Clippers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-100 on Sunday, with Leonard scoring 34 points, and entered Monday tied with the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers for first place in the NBA’s Western Conference.

The Hawks had their three-game winning streak broken on Sunday with a 129-115 loss at Milwaukee. Atlanta played that game without leading scorer Trae Young, who is suffering from back spasms and top rebounder Clint Capela due to a sore right hand, but both are expected to be available on Tuesday.

The teams split their two meetings last season, each winning at home. The Clippers won 150-101 in Los Angeles – the 49-point margin of victory was the largest in the history of the series – but Atlanta got even in the rematch with a 102-95 victory.

This will be the first game that fans will be allowed to attend games in Atlanta. Capacity will be limited to 8% which only allow about 1,300 fans, who must follow mask and distancing mandates.

The Clippers are led by Leonard, who norms 25.9 points, and George with 23.9 points per game.

Leonard made 14 of 24 shots from the field against the Thunder and fell one point short of his season high. George has been bothered by a tight hamstring and scored a season-low 11 points against the Thunder.

“(Leonard) has been phenomenal for us and (Sunday) we had to ride him,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Kawhi had it going, so we played through him a lot, especially in that second half. And he created points for himself and he created points for our team as well, so we had to ride him pretty hard just so he could continue to keep the lead.”

Leonard has scored 31-plus points in each of the last three games. In 11 career games against the Hawks, Leonard is averaging 18.1 points and 5.9 rebounds.

“When he’s in a zone like that, you probably treat him like a pitcher,” teammate Reggie Jackson said. “You don’t want to be the guy who’s throwing him off rhythm. … You just want him to stay hot, try to close the game out early.”

But with both unavailable, and for an undetermined amount of time at that, the Clippers will need to find more offense elsewhere. In the backcourt, that means Lou Williams (8.8 points per game) and Luke Kennard (8.5) will get more opportunities.

Atlanta hung around against Milwaukee – getting as close as 8 points late in the 3rd quarter – before the game got away in the final quarter. De’Andre Hunter scored a career-high 33 points and John Collins scored 30 with a career-high six 3-pointers to offset the absence of Young.

“As you saw, if he can get to his spots, it’s money,” Collins said about Hunter.

The team may have to watch Hunter’s minutes on Tuesday. He missed the game against Detroit on Jan. 20 because of right knee soreness and played a season-high 42 minutes against the Bucks.

Young (25.3 points per game) had scored 81 points over the previous two games. Capela (14.5 rebounds per game) had 45 boards over the last two starts and was coming off a triple-double at Minnesota with 10 blocks. With Capela unavailable, the Hawks had a season-low 5 offensive rebounds against the Bucks. – Rappler.com

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