Leonard has had to deal with a string of injuries over the past couple of seasons, so having him go down once again hurts for the entire Clippers organization.
“It’s very deflating,” Lue said. “I think more so for Kawhi because you have a guy who’s coming off ACL, hasn’t missed a rehab session, eats right, eats clean, does everything he can for his body, works extremely hard to get to this point. Then you have something like this happen. So it’s tough for him, for all the work that he puts in. I feel bad for him.”
After a season where it seemed the Clippers would be fully healthy going into the playoffs, losing both Leonard and Paul George to injuries is just demoralizing as a whole.
“Our team, like I said, our guys have been through a lot this year, the last two years,” Lue said. “For us to compete to get to the point where we made the Playoffs, we feeling pretty good outside of having PG out, like I said, when this happens, it’s a blow.”
Despite keeping up with the Suns throughout Game 3, the loss of Leonard was too much to overcome for the Clippers as they ultimately lost 129-124, though Norman Powell and Russell Westbrook combined for 72 points.
The status of Leonard is now determined for Game 4 – we’ll see if the Clippers can piece together a more solidified game plan. The two sides return to Phoenix for a potentially series-defining Game 5 on Tuesday.
A typhoon of turnovers afflicted both teams in the opening half with Phoenix and LA combining for 20 turnovers. Placing that into context, these teams averaged a combined 25 turnovers over the first two games of this series.
By the end of the third quarter, the teams had already surpassed that average with a combined 27 giveaways.
The home team suffered the worst of the early turnover fest, surrendering all its 25 points off giveaways over the first three quarters alone. Just five minutes into the contest, the Suns had already scored nine points off seven Clippers turnovers, while the home team converted five turnovers from the visitors into eight points.
“We could’ve taken care of the ball in the first half,” Lue said. “I thought turning the ball over kind of got them going. KD got a dunk, Booker got a 3-point shot in transition, got a layup.”
The Clippers jumped out to a 6-0 lead before turnovers fueled a 12-0 run capped by a Deandre Ayton turnaround jumper.
Why the Suns can cover
Guard Devin Booker continues to light up the Clippers. He totaled a game-high 45 points on 18 of 29 shooting, with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in Game 3. Booker joins Michael Jordan (1992) and Charles Barkley (1994) as the only players in NBA history to record 105 or more points on 60% or better shooting through the first three games of the postseason. Booker averaged a career-best 27.8 points during the 2022-2023 season, tops in franchise history. He leads the league in scoring during the playoffs, averaging 36.3 points.
Small forward Torrey Craig has stepped up his play in the postseason after averaging just 7.4 points per game in the regular season. In Thursday’s win, Craig scored 15 points, while grabbing four rebounds and adding two assists. He opened the series with a 22-point, four-rebound performance in the Game 1 loss to the Clippers. He is hitting 62.5% from 3-point range so far in the postseason. He shot a career-best 39.5% from 3-point range during the regular season.
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