Kawhi Leonard’s health status a concern as Clippers host Nuggets

The Los Angeles Clippers will train their focus toward locking down a top-four spot in the Western Conference when the schedule turns in their favor over the final week and a half of the regular season.

The good news for the Clippers is they will play six of their last seven regular-season games at home. But there is plenty to be concerned about with star Kawhi Leonard getting treatment this week for right knee soreness.

The Clippers (47-28) went 3-1 on a just-concluded four-game road trip that crisscrossed the country, although the team finished with a 109-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

Leonard was back in Los Angeles so the training staff could assess the knee injury, missing just his third game since the start of the new year. The discomfort crept up on Leonard during a 130-118 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday when he scored 23 points in 37 minutes.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was asked whether Leonard would be available to face the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

“We hope so (but) we’re not sure right now,” Lue said. “That’s what we’re leaning toward and hopeful he will be back by Thursday but we’re not sure yet.”

The official NBA injury report, however, has updated Leonard’s status to “out” for Thursday’s game.

Norman Powell started in place of Leonard on Tuesday and scored 17 points in 28 minutes. The Kings took charge of the game with a 23-4 run that started at the end of the first quarter, and the Clippers were essentially finished after scoring just 19 points in the third quarter.

Russell Westbrook scored 20 points for Los Angeles, his most in any of the five games since returning from a fractured hand, but 11 of those were in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

The Nuggets (53-23) arrive in Los Angeles after a 110-105 victory at home over the San Antonio Spurs — Denver’s sixth win in eight games. Beginning with a March 7 win over the Boston Celtics, the Nuggets have an 11-3 record.

Denver also has been without a key piece. Guard Jamal Murray missed the past six games with right knee inflammation.

He took part in shooting drills before each of Denver’s past two games and appears close to a return after showing no discomfort.

The Nuggets play four of their final six regular-season games on the road as they try to lock down the top playoff seed in the West. They are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves and have a one-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder but do not have the tiebreaker versus either team.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic knows the importance of a No. 1 seed, as the Nuggets rode their top seeding last season to the title. It was the first time they finished with the best record in the Western Conference in franchise history.

“My goal is to play every game, and that’s my mindset,” said Jokic, who has missed just three games this season and scored 42 points with 16 rebounds in the victory over the Spurs. “So if something happens, I will let you guys know.”

–Field Level Media