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Clippers try to rally late but fall short in loss to Warriors

Kawhi Leonard was back on an NBA court Tuesday, jogging between shots, flicking the ball with his right wrist with ease.

In pregame warmups.

Two hours before tipoff in San Francisco’s Chase Center, the All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP who hasn’t played a game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on June 14 caught passes from a team staffer and fired three-pointers as part of a workout that produced snippets of video that pinged around the internet, leading Clippers fans to again do the math. Leonard underwent surgery not quite eight months ago, about one month before athletes with his injury generally return to playing. The postseason begins in five weeks.

Reticent all season discussing the prognosis or progress of his injured headliners Leonard, Paul George and Norman Powell, coach Tyronn Lue offered no update on what Leonard’s shooting meant for his probability to return, though he did say that Leonard has yet to be cleared to play against contact.

None of those three have been publicly ruled out for a return this season. But the calvary also isn’t coming — not yet, anyway. And while the Clippers have gutted through most of the season without their stars, it was not the case in a 112-97 loss to the Warriors.

Since winning two emotionally charged games against the Lakers and three against the overmatched, youthful Houston Rockets, the Clippers have lost two straight and looked flat for six of their last eight quarters.

“We can’t stop playing the right way and don’t think we’ve done that the last two games,” Nicolas Batum said.

Outside of Sunday’s third quarter that cut their deficit to the Knicks from 26-12, and Tuesday’s fourth, when reserves trimmed a once-29-point Warriors lead to 11 with 4:41 to play, they have been unable to match the desperate energy of New York, on Sunday, and Golden State, opponents that badly needed victories to interrupt their respective slides in the standings.

Along with the return of the often minutes-long scoring droughts that have plagued this offense since George’s December injury — three minutes remained in the first half when…

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2022-03-09

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