Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was restricted to 24.5 minutes of on-court playing time in Game 3, limited by knee inflammation. Finishing the contest with nine points, nine rebounds, and two assists to four turnovers, he was a shell of himself. Indeed, it was Leonard’s worst postseason scoring effort since the 2014 NBA Finals.

After the game, Leonard addressed his ongoing knee pain, saying “it was pretty good the first game… It didn’t respond the way we wanted it to” (h/t the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner).

“Frustrating that it happened to me this late in the season. But, yeah, we’re going to keep going. We’re going to get it right.”

“…It was either play limited minutes or not play,” Leonard explains. “And I wanted to be on the floor to help the team. And, that’s what the results are.”

Kawhi Leonard Gets Playoffs Update Amid Injury Concerns

Leonard missed the final eight games of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs with knee soreness.

Returning for Game 2 of their First Round series against the Dallas Mavericks, Leonard is averaging 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 29.7 minutes per game this postseason. On the bright side, the California native is shooting 45.8 percent from the field. Nonetheless, his meager scoring has dramatically decreased the Clippers’ chances of defeating the Mavs.

To that point, Leonard is all but irreplaceable even if L.A. does have another two-way star in Paul George.

Where George is a smooth shot-creator, Leonard is master technician, their differing styles complementary rather than incompatible. Frankly, it’s strange that the Clippers haven’t sought to acquire a player who can mimic Leonard or George’s ability despite their injury history. A ‘poor man’s Kawhi’ (or a ‘poor man’s PG’) would come in handy in these circumstances. Nonetheless, L.A. can only make do with what they have. To that end, with Leonard hobbling around on one knee, the Clippers should seriously consider giving Amir Coffey a larger role.

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A five-year NBA veteran, Coffey isn’t known for his scoring with a career average of 5.8 points per game. However, in 2021-22, Coffee stepped up in a major way. While averaging 11.3 points per contest (on 38.9 percent shooting from 3) over the last 47 games, he scored 20 or more points seven times in that stretch.

He may not be a top-rate scorer or hound his defensive assignments like Leonard. Nonetheless, he’s proven himself capable of scoring and defending at a high level. While Lue says Leonard will still play in Game 4, it wouldn’t hurt to see what Coffey can provide against Dallas.

At worst, he forces Mavs head coach Jason Kidd to adjust. With Dallas now confident in their ability to match the Clippers’ offensive weapons, Lue needs to consider ways of making his offense tougher to guard.

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