Leonard’s mighty slam in the second quarter put the exclamation mark on a first half that saw the LA Clippers lead up to 29 points before playing their Western Conference semi-final series with the Jazz at two games apiece with a 118-104 win at Staples Center on Monday night.
With the Clippers winning their second straight game to give them all their momentum, Tyronn Lue’s side are heading to Utah with some concern about Leonard’s health. The Clippers franchise player appeared gimpy after driving to the basket after being fouled by Joe Ingles with 5:25 left. Leonard leaned down before briefly grabbing his right knee. Leonard left the contest with 4:35 remaining and did not return.
“I’m fine,” Leonard only said when asked about his knee. ” Next question. “
Lue believes Leonard will be fine for Wednesday’s crucial game five in Salt Lake City.
“Yeah, I think so,” Lue said. “We’ll know more after the game, but yeah, I think everyone’s pretty good. “
For the second consecutive competition, the Jazz had no answers for Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers’ All-Stars scored 31 points apiece in Game 4. In the first half, Leonard scored 19 points, George scored 15 and Marcus Morris Sr. contributed 22 of his 24 points. Those three Clippers combined to beat Utah 56-44 at halftime.
In Game 3, Leonard had 34 points, while George added 31. On Monday, Leonard and George became the fifth duo since the 1976-77 merger with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games.
“They were just on a different level,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led the Jazz with 37 points, five assists and five rebounds. “And we couldn’t buy a bucket. “
“We have to be the aggressors,” Mitchell added. “They came out and struck first both times at home. “
Leonard’s thunderous dunk wasn’t just felt by the Jazz in Staples Center. It resonated across the country, as Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid reacted in real time as he gave his post-game press conference on Monday night. Embiid was watching a monitor and was in awe of Leonard’s dunk, which also went viral online.
“I don’t see the reaction to what’s on the web or on social media,” said Leonard, who doesn’t do much on social media. ” [Ivica Zubac] showed me a clip of Embiid speaking. “
The dunk wasn’t the only highlight Leonard provided before leaving the game. He also made an emphatic block in the third quarter to keep the Clippers from going nonchalant with their big lead.
“You see him being more aggressive and you know what time it is,” George said of Leonard. “It’s written all over him in terms of starting time. It’s playoff basketball, and you know, it’s time to win. So you see him all around him, his approach, his body language, everything gets great, and so he’s leading the way. “
Leonard looked as explosive as he has been all season until he appeared to be twisting his knee in the fourth quarter. Leonard stayed in the game, shooting another foul five seconds later, but he missed two free throws. He then took two free kicks before going out for the Clippers with a 107-91 lead.
Although he was not examined on the bench, Leonard spoke with a coach. The Clippers kept their spotlight even when Utah reduced the deficit to 112-102 with 2:10 remaining.
The Clippers are now two wins away from their very first appearance in the Western Conference Final. But the double MVP of the final does not think about it for the moment.
“I don’t care about the Western Conference final,” said Leonard. “We are trying to win the championship. Obviously this is the next step, but I’m not even looking at this. ”