Two teams that have been repeatedly hit by the injury bug this season meet when the Charlotte Hornets continue their six-game road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Los Angeles stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have played just nine games together, while Charlotte has been without LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin and Dennis Smith Jr. for extended periods.
The lack of continuity has hurt Charlotte, which owns one of the league’s second-worst record at 8-23. Meanwhile, the Clippers are 18-14 and just 2 1/2 games back of the Western Conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies.
Leonard offered a reminder on Saturday why the Clippers remain championship contenders. Playing in his 11th game this season, the five-time All-Star scored a season-high 31 points and had nine rebounds and three steals in a 102-93 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Leonard, who sat out all of last season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, played 32 minutes against the Wizards and left a positive impression on Clippers coach Tyronn Lue.
“Very impressed,” Lue said. “The pace with the way he played and then attacking downhill. Quick moves. Like, getting to the basket was really good to see. He’s starting to trust it more. He’s feeling better, feeling good and starting to trust it. So, that’s good to see. When he’s explosive like that, he’s a tough cover.”
Los Angeles has won its last nine meetings against Charlotte, which is riding high following a surprising win over the Sacramento Kings.
Kelly Oubre Jr. had 31 points and Ball added 23 in the Hornets’ 125-119 win over the Kings on Monday. The victory snapped the team’s eight-game losing streak.
“Just to get that one win, it just felt great,” Ball said. “It’s definitely a big win. One can turn into two, two can turn into three. So, just getting that first win is always good.”
Ball, who has missed 24 games with an ankle injury, is averaging 23.1 points and 7.4 assists in seven games this season.
“He has great courage,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s confident and he badly wants to win. You are never going to have to worry about his competitive spirit.”
Charlotte guard Terry Rozier sat out the Sacramento game with a right hip contusion and is listed as day-to-day.
The Hornets continue to receive a spark off the bench from center Nick Richards, who recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds against Sacramento.
Charlotte is facing a Clippers team that is 3-1 during its current five-game homestand.
Los Angeles could have George (left knee soreness), Reggie Jackson (left Achilles inflammation) and Norman Powell (left groin strain) back in the lineup on Wednesday, but all three will be gametime decisions.
Center Ivica Zubac has missed the past two games with a left knee bruise and is not expected to play against Charlotte.
Despite all of the injuries, Los Angeles has managed to stay in contention. Best of all, the playoffs don’t begin for another four months.
“You hate to see (the injuries), but if it’s gonna happen, I’d rather it happen early than late,” Lue said.
–Field Level Media