Clippers will face Mavericks in first round, but will Kawhi Leonard play?

Clippers guard Amir Coffey puts up a shot during a 110-109 loss to the Utah Jazz at Arena on Friday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers’ first-round playoff matchup was set before tipoff Friday night.

With the Dallas Mavericks losing to the Detroit Pistons, the Clippers already knew before their 110-109 loss to the Utah Jazz that they had clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference and will play the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs.

“Getting the fourth seed in a tough conference, the Western Conference ... it means a lot,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Having home-court advantage in the first round, winning (51) games, winning our division for the first time in 10 years, so it says a lot about just staying with it, sticking with it even through tough times. So, I give guys credit — our players as well as our coaching staff.”


The Clippers, playing without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Ivica Zubac, fall to the Phoenix Suns.

April 10, 2024

The next order of business for the Clippers is to have a healthy roster, something they haven’t had in a while.

Their top player, Kawhi Leonard, didn’t play against the Jazz because of right knee inflammation. It was the seventh straight game Leonard sat out because of a knee issue. Leonard had been relatively healthy this season, sitting out only six games before his latest injury.

The Clippers haven’t said if Leonard would play against the Houston Rockets in the regular-season finale Sunday. In 68 games, Leonard averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shot 52.5% from the field, 41.7% from three-point range.

So will Leonard play when the postseason starts?

“That is what we want to see,” Lue said. “Hopefully he will be playing. Yes sir.”

Lue said before the game that getting healthy was the team’s “No. 1 priority.”

Clippers guard Norman Powell scores in front of Utah's Darius Bazley, left, and Brice Sensabaugh.
Clippers guard Norman Powell scores in front of Utah’s Darius Bazley, left, and Brice Sensabaugh in the first half Friday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles)

James Harden returned after sitting out two games because of right foot inflammation. He played only 10 minutes and had four points and five assists.

Lue said he wasn’t sure if the team would have to manage Harden’s foot injury in the postseason.

Paul George didn’t play after the first quarter, logging eight minutes and scoring 10 points. Starters Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann also didn’t play much either. Zubac played 10 minutes and had 10 points and Mann played five minutes and had five points.


Bones Hyland led the Clippers with 20 points and Amir Coffey scored 16 points.

The Clippers (51-30) had a chance to beat the Jazz (31-50), but Xavier Moon missed a jumper. Brandon Boston Jr. grabbed the rebound, but he couldn’t get off a shot before the buzzer.

But the Clippers didn’t dwell on the loss, with their focus shifting to what will be their third playoff matchup with the Mavericks in five seasons. The Clippers defeated the Mavericks in six games in 2020 and seven games in 2021.

The Clippers secure another playoff spot, the 10th time in the last 13 years they’ll finish in the top five in the conference standings. But it was an adventure getting there Tuesday.

April 9, 2024

Facing the dynamic backcourt duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving will present a challenge.

“Luka is a tough cover, along with Kyrie,” Lue said. “But Luka is one of those players that, usually you can take a guy out of the game, their best player, by blitzing and trapping and firing and getting the ball out of his hands. But we’ve seen it time and time again that when you do that he could still have 40 points and 15 assists.

“So, he can pick you apart and he can beat you in other ways besides scoring the basketball. So it’s a fine line with that. And then with Kyrie, he can have an offensive explosion at any time. He’s one of the best one-on-one players in our game.”