One halftime break, two losses Leonard's load management pushed the Clippers to the brink of the playoffs

This article was compiled from: The Athletic

作者:Law Murray and The Athletic Staff

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Before today's game between the Clippers and the Pelicans, I believe many fans are waiting for an important moment for Kawhi Leonard: playing back-to-back!

You must know that Leonard, who has always been known for load management, just reached a historic half-time break last time, which caused an uproar in public opinion!

Look at what this back-to-back brings and what is the story behind the half-time break:

1. A two-game losing streak, the Clippers ranking situation deteriorated sharply

In this game against the Pelicans, Leonard, who played back-to-back, played 41 minutes, cutting in 40 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block.

Despite the luxurious data, the team still lost the game and had no choice but to swallow two consecutive losses!

After this game, the Clippers came to 41-38, just 0.5 wins ahead of the seventh-placed Pelicans. If the next game is not won, the Clippers will even slide into the play-off zone!

Theoretically: the Los Angeles derby of the Clippers vs the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, and even the possibility that the Lakers ranking will overtake the Clippers!

2. Strange half-time break, what exactly happened in the last game?

In the last game against the Grizzlies, Leonard did not play in the second half because he planned to play the next back-to-back game. In the end, the team lost!

One of the strangest scenes of the Los Angeles Clippers' season at FedEx Arena on Friday night speaks for something.

In Wednesday's 141-132 win over the Grizzlies, Leonard withdrew from the game in the final moments due to what the team claimed was a personal reason. He started Friday's game and helped the Clippers take a 20-point lead in the first quarter. Then the Clippers trailed 51-55 at halftime, losing the lead.

Leonard did not come out of the dressing room in the second half. His game night ended less than 18 minutes after the show. The team's official explanation was that Leonard wanted to play in both back-to-back games, so in order to keep him on Saturday night in New Orleans, Leonard couldn't play the entire game against the Grizzlies.

3. What is the impact of Leonard's load management?

This episode of load management (you can't call it anything else) elicited a series of reactions, each of which was terrifying:

· Clippers coach Taryn Lue, who has been exhausted by the lack of consistency in the weekly roster available since the start of the season, declined to discuss the decision after Friday's game (Leonard only played half a game). Lu has often stated that the players will play if it were up to him, although he understands that the team will protect the players from injuries of their own.

· Clippers starter Russell Westbrook and backup Norman Powell said they didn't know Leonard's status ahead of Friday night's game. Wilson added that changes in mentality and roles can have an impact on the outcome of the game.

Even Memphis Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks expressed his disappointment, saying he was looking forward to defending Kawhi Leonard to "test his skills," but he also understood that keeping Leonard healthy was the Clippers' top priority ahead of the playoffs.

4. The history of Leonard load management

Leonard's only season with zero rest since the 2017 offseason was 2020-21, Lue's first season as Clippers head coach. Leonard played six back-to-back games that season with zero breaks, the last of which was a win over the Houston Rockets on April 9, 2021. Leonard's 2021 season ended with a partial torn anterior cruciate ligament, which caused him to miss the entire 2021-22 season, with Leonard missing at least one game in each of the Clippers' first 13 back-to-back games this season.

Before Lew's first season as head coach, Leonard suffered from right quadriceps tendinopathy. That condition allowed Leonard to play just nine games in his final season with the San Antonio Spurs in 2017-18, 60 in his only season with the Toronto Raptors and 57 in 72 games in his first season with the Clippers — none of which Leonard played back-to-back.

Saturday night will be a big time for Leonard and the Clippers. Leonard hopes to play back-to-back games throughout the season, but he has to listen to the medical team, a team empowered by management. If Leonard can play a strong performance and bring a win, that will go a long way toward making up for Friday night's frustration and confusion. But losing a game in New Orleans, especially if Leonard's performance is as sluggish as last week's against the Pelicans, only amplifies management's odd injury management execution and communication issues with the coaching team.

5. Leonard's importance to the Clippers

Leonard had a strong second half of the comeback season, averaging 26.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from three shots.

In the chaotic West, the Clippers really need Leonard — they have a 30-18 record when Leonard comes on this season, and 11-19 when he's not on the floor.

But with two losses at halftime, Leonard and the Clippers should think about what to do?

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