Kawhi Leonard leaves Clippers Christmas game after elbow blow to face
Leonard received eight stitches Friday after teammate Serge Ibaka accidentally hit the Clippers forward in the mouth
The Los Angeles Clippers were cruising towards a Christmas Day victory against the Denver Nuggets when All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard was knocked to the floored after getting elbowed by one of his teammates in the fourth quarter.
Leonard was forced to leave the game Friday and received stitches for the blow to the face, according to USA Today.
With just minutes left to play in the game, Leonard was playing defense in the paint when teammate, power forward Serge Ibaka, went for a rebound. In the process, Ibaka’s elbow hit Leonard in the face, knocking him down to the floor and leaving the 6-foot-7-inch star motionless for a moment.
Team medical personnel quickly came to Leonard’s aid after he began bleeding severely. He was eventually able to get up and walk off the court under his own power, though he did not return. He was later diagnosed with a mouth laceration and had to receive eight stitches.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believes Leonard will be alright and ready for the next game.
“He’s going to be fine,” Lue said. “He got up and walked off the floor. So he’s good.”
Ibaka, a three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player, is in his first season with the Clippers after signing with the team during the off-season, according to NBA.com. This is his fourth team in his 13-year NBA career. After spending most of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he had stints with the Orlando Magic and later the Toronto Raptors, nothing career highs in points and assists last season.
Leonard and Ibaka were Raptors teammates in the 2018-2019 season, winning an NBA championship that year against the Golden State Warriors. In his lone season in Toronto, Leonard was the MVP of NBA Finals. He later signed with the Clippers.
The Clippers’ matchup against the Nuggets Friday was marque not only because it fell on Christmas, but because it was a rematch between the two Western Conference foes who met in last season’s playoffs. The heavily favored Clippers were leading a best-of-seven series against Denver three games to one during the second round, as reported by NBC Sports. However, the Nuggets rallied to win the series.
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