Without Kawhi Leonard, Clippers end trip on disappointing note

Los Angeles Clippers guard Norman Powell
Clippers guard Norman Powell, who started in place of Kawhi Leonard, shoots over De’Aaron Fox in the first half.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

Even with leading man Kawhi Leonard out because of a sore right knee, the Clippers still clung to their goal.

And that was to finish their four-game trip in the right fashion with a win in Sacramento while Leonard was in Los Angeles receiving treatment.

But it was not to be for the Clippers, the pop just not there, the shots failing to fall into the basket when it mattered the most, the 26-point deficit they found themselves under in the fourth quarter too much to overcome during a 109-95 loss to the Kings on Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.


More so, Kings center Domantas Sabonis was a force the Clippers couldn’t stop, his all-around play leaving him one assist from a triple-double with 22 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists.

The Clippers were outrebounded 56-38. They gave up 20 offensive rebounds — seven to Sabonis — leading to 20 second-chance points for the Kings. They had 16 turnovers leading to 15 points for the Kings and shot 40.8% from the field.

“I thought the intent was right,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “I thought we did some good things defensively, and like I said, we didn’t come up with the rebound all the time. But I thought we did some good things. And we just didn’t make shots either, like yeah, we couldn’t make any shots when we needed to.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard has returned to Los Angeles to receive treatment on his sore right knee.

April 2, 2024

The Clippers won the first three games on the four-game trip that covered eight days, winning at Philadelphia, Orlando and Charlotte.

They have seven regular-season games left — two sets of back-to-backs — over 12 days.

The hope is that the team will be whole and playing its best basketball heading into the playoffs.

“I mean, we won on the road,” said Paul George, who had 18 points on five-for-12 shooting. “You’ll take that. But I’ve been a huge advocate of thinking that we need to continue to get better. But any time you win ball games it’s a positive.


Lue said before the Kings game that sending Leonard back to L.A. was the best thing.

“He went back to L.A. [because there are] better resources as far as treatment and everything like that,” Lue said. “So, he went back [Monday] when we landed [here in Sacramento].”

Leonard, who is averaging 23.7 points on 52.5% shooting and 41.7% on threes, missed only his eighth game of the season.

Lue said they “hope” Leonard can return to play Thursday when the Clippers meet the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets at Arena.

Clippers point guard Russell Westbrook told a Hornets fan, ‘Don’t disrespect my name.’ The former NBA MVP has been fighting that battle since his Lakers days.

April 1, 2024

“We’re not sure right now,” Lue said. “But that’s what we are leaning to, that’s what we’re hopeful, that he can be back by Thursday, but not sure yet.”

Norman Powell, one of the NBA’s top sixth men who averages 14.0 points, started in place of Leonard on Tuesday and scored 17 points.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points off the bench for the Clippers, going seven for 14 from the field.


But James Harden had a tough shooting night, the double teams the Kings threw at the Clippers point guard not allowing him to get many clean looks.

Harden made only one of seven shots and one of five three-pointers for six points.

Still, the Clippers finished the trip 3-1 and remained in fourth place in the Western Conference, two games ahead of fifth-seeded Dallas and sixth-seeded New Orleans.

“It’s a good trip,” Harden said. “Should have been 4-0, but things don’t always work out how you want it to. So, got an opportunity to go home and regroup and try to get some wins at home.”