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Paul George out 2-3 weeks with knee sprain as Clippers push for playoffs

Clippers forward Paul George suffered a right knee sprain during a Tuesday night loss to the Thunder. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
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Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George suffered a right knee sprain that will sideline him for at least two to three weeks, the team announced Wednesday, a diagnosis that puts his availability for the playoffs in question.

The 32-year-old George, who earned his eighth all-star selection this season, suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 101-100 loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. With the score tied at 91 and less than five minutes to play, George rose to grab a defensive rebound in the paint. As George descended with the ball, Thunder guard Lu Dort gave chase, and Dort’s right leg contacted George’s right leg before he landed.

Replays appeared to show George’s knee hyperextending after the contact, and he immediately fell to the court in pain. George required assistance to get to the locker room and did not return, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes. The 13-year pro reportedly left the arena on a cart.

George will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, meaning he will miss at least seven games and could be out for the rest of the regular season, which concludes April 9. The play-in tournament is set to begin in roughly four weeks.

The Clippers enter Wednesday’s action as the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed with a 38-35 record, though they hold just a two-game lead over the No. 10 seed Utah Jazz with nine games to play. His absence could have serious consequences in the standings; the Clippers are 32-24 with him in the lineup and 6-11 without him.

George has averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists this season, and his pairing with Kawhi Leonard serves as the foundation of the Clippers’ wing-heavy, versatile identity. George was able to lead the Clippers to the 2021 Western Conference finals when Leonard was injured in the second round that season, and he has functioned as both a secondary scoring option and a lead playmaker this season.

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“Next man up,” Leonard said Tuesday. “We’ll see. We got a group of guys that still want to win.”

Since his 2019 arrival from Oklahoma City in a blockbuster trade, George has been a franchise-level talent for the Clippers, and he was a driving force behind the organization’s recent signing of Russell Westbrook. George, a Southern California native, signed a four-year, $190 million extension in December 2020 that runs through the 2024-25 season.

George suffered a broken left leg while competing for USA Basketball in 2014 that cost him all but six games of the 2014-15 season. He recovered from that gruesome injury to earn all-NBA and all-defensive team honors in 2015-16, and he finished third in the 2019 MVP race. As a member of the Clippers, George revealed he dealt with anxiety and depression during the 2020 bubble restart, and he missed a portion of the 2022 play-in tournament after testing positive for the coronavirus. Without him, the Clippers suffered a season-ending loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

George joins a long list of fellow Western Conference stars — including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns — who have recently dealt with injuries.

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