NBA fans hoping to see an exciting matchup of dynamic duos Tuesday night were met with instant disappointment.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard was ruled out of a national TV game against the Celtics because of back spasms. The 29-year-old was seen warming up at TD Garden but left the court shortly before tipoff. During the first quarter, Los Angeles officially announced Leonard would not be available.
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Reggie Jackson replaced Leonard in the Clippers’ starting lineup, joining Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka. During a midgame interview with TNT analyst Grant Hill, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue emphasized that no one player would be able to fill the void left behind by Leonard.
“[We can’t] try to do it by ourselves. [It’s] doing it by committee,” Lue said. “Reggie’s done a good job. [George] got off to a good start. Just gotta be better defensively.”
This marks the second Celtics-Clippers game this season that has failed to deliver a George and Leonard vs. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum battle. George and Brown sat out the only other meeting between Boston and Los Angeles last month. Brown and Tatum were both active for Tuesday’s contest, but George was forced to carry the offensive load without Leonard in the first half, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Leonard has now missed eight games this season: one game with back spasms, two games with a mouth laceration, two games as part of health and safety protocols and three games with a leg contusion. He is averaging 26.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, and he was named an All-Star starter last month.