Clippers lose Kawhi Leonard to bloody injury late in win over Nuggets
The Los Angeles Clippers tracked their opening night win against the Lakers with another heavy lifting against a Western Conference contender on Christmas Day.
But they lost Kawhi Leonard on the way.
The Clippers improved to 2-0 with a 121-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday and closed an NBA holiday with a fifth double-digit margin in five games.
They held on to victory after losing Leonard, who was left bloody and lying on the pitch after teammate Serge Ibaka accidentally poked him in the teeth towards the end of the fourth quarter.
(Warning: the following footage contains blood)
Leonard was able to get up and go to the locker room but was quickly disfellowshipped for the rest of the game.
Head coach Tyronn Lue was optimistic after the game that Leonard would not be seriously injured as Clippers medical staff continued to examine their superstar.
"He got up and walked off the floor, so he's going to be fine," Lue told reporters.
The Clippers later announced that it took Leonard eight stitches to close a mouth injury.
The Clippers scored a big win but lost Leonard to a terrifying injury. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
Clippers fend off the late nuggets rally
Los Angeles took a 72-55 at halftime and thwarted Denver's efforts in the second half to close it. The Nuggets threatened to make a comeback at the beginning of the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run. But Leonard was able to fend off the rally with two midfielders to thwart the run.
It was an achievement Clippers fans would surely have preferred to see in one of Games 5, 6 or 7 of the devastating loss to the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
But with convincing wins against their top conference rivals earlier in the season, the Clippers believers have to settle for the hottest start in the west of the new NBA season in hopes that Leonard's injury looked worse than it is.
Before his injury, Leonard ran the Clippers alongside Paul George. He finished with 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals, while taking 8 of 14 shots from the field. Some of these shots were late in the game by the underrated middle class needed to keep the Clippers under control.
George, meanwhile, added 23 points and nine assists while hitting 5 out of 9 3-point attempts.
Slow start for nuggets
The loss dropped the Nuggets to 2-0 after extra time against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. The good news for Denver is that Jamal Murray found his shot late after fighting for much of the game after beating Sacramento 9-1.
Murray finished with 23 points and five rebounds while hitting 9 of 20 shots from the field. Nikola Jokic led the Denver effort with 24 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds.
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