A “scary” facial injury suffered by Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard on Friday left his team-mates “thinking of the worst”.
The Clippers small forward was involved in an accidental collision with Serge Ibaka when his team-mate went for a defensive rebound and caught Leonard with his elbow.
Leonard was bleeding heavily from his mouth on the floor of the court before being taken off for further treatment in the locker room during the fourth quarter.
In the absence of the four-time All-Star, who later reportedly required eight stitches for a mouth laceration, the Clippers held out to beat the Denver Nuggets 121-108.
Paul George said he was “really worried” when he saw the initial damage to his team-mate, adding: “I was thinking of the worst. I didn’t know if he was concussed or how hard of a hit [it was] or what actually happened because I didn’t see it.
“I just saw him laying on the ground. That was first and foremost, just making sure he was okay.”
Clippers forward Nicolas Batum said he spoke with Leonard after the game and that he appeared to be recovering.
“You don’t want a player, any player, [to] go down like that with blood all over him and everywhere on the floor,” Batum said.
“I think he’s good. I just saw him in the locker room; he was okay, and that was kind of scary in the moment.”
Leonard managed had 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals in half an hour of action at Pepsi Center as the Clippers gained some measure of revenge for their defeat to Denver in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Coach Tyronn Lue felt his players performed as expected to hold onto their advantage, with Leonard having left the court with the Clippers leading 108-97.
“Nothing was said [to the players],” he explained. “You know, just next man up. We know Kawhi is a great player. We’ve got to have the mindset that if he goes down, everybody has to be able to step up.”