Kawhi Leonard tells Clippers to be 'more focused because we're missing a superstar' after Paul George injury blow
Kawhi Leonard played a lead role as the Los Angeles Clippers won without the injured Paul George and urged teammates to "dial in even deeper" over the remainder of the regular season.
The Clippers scored a 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, two nights after George suffered a knee injury in a 101-100 loss to the same opposition.
Leonard played the lead role as the two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting from the field, adding six assists and six rebounds, while Russell Westbrook added 24 points.
Asked how the Clippers would cope without eight-time All-Star George, Leonard said: "Like we did tonight. Eric Gordon stepped in and started in his position, and it provided more minutes for Bones [Hyland] and Terance [Mann] and they came in and did a great job, provided a positive energy. Nobody's head was down.
"We wish PG a speedy recovery. It's next man up and that's how we've got to play.
"We've got to keep sharing the ball, and dial in even deeper."
He said the Clippers must collectively be "more focused because we're missing a superstar".
George is set to miss the rest of the regular season but crucially he has avoided serious ligament damage, so it should not be a long-term lay-off.
Leonard might be the franchise player, but he wants everyone to be making big contributions in George's absence as the Clippers look to nail down their postseason spot. For now, they sit fifth in the Western Conference with a 39-35 record.
"Missing a guy like that, the ball's going to be in my hands more," Leonard said in his post-game press conference.
"But everybody else as well. One man can't win these basketball games. We'll have to come in with a group effort and everybody focus up, buy in, and try to do what we can do without him."
As for how Westbrook is faring, almost five weeks on from his arrival from the Utah Jazz, Leonard was complimentary, saying it was positive "just having a Hall of Fame point guard on the floor".
"He brings energy to the team, brings pace, plays both ends of the floor," Leonard said. "He's been doing a good job."