Kawhi Leonard: Just Doing What the Spurs Do
When Kawhi Leonard started off Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night in Miami with a perfect first quarter, it was a bit of a surprise. When the 22-year-old looked at his stat sheet after the game, it was probably a shocker, for some at least.
Leonard is certainly a talented scorer, but the 29 points he scored in his 10th NBA Finals game weren’t only a new career high, they were also the most points he’s scored since high school.
After playing more than 300 games combined for the Spurs in the NBA and for San Diego State in college, Leonard just happened to go off on the biggest stage of all, when he was guarding LeBron James no less.
Although Leonard hitting 10-of-13 shots, three-of-six from downtown and six-of-from the line while chipping in with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks looks ridiculous on paper, maybe it shouldn’t.
He’s just doing what the Spurs do.
Led by Leonard, the Spurs shot a 25-of-33 in the first half to finish at 75.8 percent, an NBA Finals record. There’s no doubt that Leonard was top dog in Game 3, but teammates Danny Green, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined to shoot 19-of-33, about 57.5 percent, an excellent number.
Looking back at last year Finals and the first three games this time around, it is probably no surprise that those five players — Leonard, Green, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker — have led the Spurs in scoring both years. However, when looking at the per-game top scorers, it’s a little more interesting. Duncan has led the team in scoring four times, Parker has led three times, Green twice and Leonard once.
That is about as well-rounded as it gets in the NBA.
In contrast, James has led the Heat six times, Dwayne Wade has led once, Mario Chalmers has led once and Wade and James have combined to lead Miami twice. It’s worth noting that the games that Chalmers and Wade led by themselves were both last season and that the games where Wade and James shared the scoring lead were both Miami losses.
That’s just a long way of pointing out that the Spurs can survive by relying on a number of players (as we saw last night) and that at this point in time, the Heat cannot.
When it gets right down to it in Game 7, which it probably will, a huge part of how the game goes will be decided by the way that Duncan and James handle themselves. If James is at the top of his game, there might not be anyone in the world that can stop him, but if he’s not, the Heat will lose. That said, the Spurs have a supporting cast that Duncan can rely on to carry the load if he isn’t at 100 percent. That’s the Spur way; just ask Kawhi Leonard.
Evan Bleier is a freelance writer based out of wherever he can plug in his laptop. You can send him questions, comments and Buffalo wing suggestions @itishowitis or "like" CraveOnline Sports on Facebook
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