Clippers back at full strength as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George return against Jazz

Paul George brings the ball up court during a game against the Magic on Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

For the first time in nearly a month, the Clippers’ starting lineup is back together at full strength.

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Nicolas Batum were all cleared to play Friday against Western Conference-leading Utah after various injuries sidelined the trio in recent days, coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff at Staples Center. In addition, reserve guard Luke Kennard, who missed Wednesday’s loss against Utah because of a sore right knee, also will be available.

The Jazz also got a key player back. After missing six games because of a hamstring injury, guard Mike Conley is healthy and will play, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.


All of the players will be on a minutes restriction.

“Our style of play is different with those guys on the floor and so, it’s going to be a different game tonight,” Lue said. “Slowly easing our guys in to it, make sure that we’re cautious and not trying to overplay these guys because we want to win the game so bad, and make sure that we’re getting out of this game healthy.”

Those returns set up a game that will be the best picture yet of two contenders. The Jazz (24-5) have won 20 of their last 21 games following Wednesday’s 18-point win against the short-handed Clippers. That loss snapped a four-game winning streak by the Clippers (21-9), who are third in the West, one game behind the Lakers.

George missed seven games because of swelling in a bone of a toe on his right foot but no longer has pain or swelling after a few days of full-court workouts, Lue said.

The Clippers loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday showed the importance of getting high-quality perimeter defenders.

Feb. 18, 2021

A bruised left leg sidelined Leonard for three games and Batum missed two because of a concussion. That trio, along with guard Patrick Beverley and center Serge Ibaka, will start together for the first time since Jan. 24.

George, Leonard, Batum and Kennard have accounted for 68.8 points per game this season.

“Those are pretty good players, especially [George and Leonard],” Snyder said. “I think there’s no mystery for our guys. The level of respect for their team, the way they’re coached, the way they play. We’ll have to play well to win, I think, on a lot of levels.”