After Game 2, Travis Hale said that Kawhi Leonard needed to be more aggressive for the Spurs to have a chance in this series. And he was right. After 18 points total in Games 1 & 2, Leonard had 29 in Game 3, not only leading all scorers, but setting a career high for himself in the process. The young, quiet, star in the making came out to play today.
Everyone talked about Lebron wanting to prove himself in Game 2, and he did. He reminded us that he's the best player in the world. But after two straight poor performances, there wasn't much talk about Kawhi's proof of life. Maybe it's because it's easy to forget that quiet guys having some pride of their own.
Kawhi knew he played like ish in the first two games. He knows he's better than the combined 18 points and 9 fouls he had tallied in the Finals through Sunday. In Game 3, Kawhi still ended up with four fouls, but he didn't let it affect his aggression on either end of the court.
The case for the Spurs winning Game 4
The first of two companion articles examining the arguments for and against San Antonio winning tonight in Miami to take a 3-1 lead.
Besides Leonard's play, what's making him a fan favorite: his soft spoken ways and his tendency toward understatement. After the game, Kawhi made sure to remind us that it's just one game and the series isn't over yet. When asked about his emotions during his remarkable first quarter, he said "I was thinking that I wanted to win."
Spurs fans love emotion (see Ginobili, Manu) but what has made the Spurs the Spurs is being calm and cool no matter the stage. On fastbreak dunks, he looks like he's taking Tony Parker's clothes to be dry cleaned. When the cameras catch him after a play, it's impossible to tell from his expression if he just scored his 12 straight point, or whether he gave up the game-winner.
His quiet ways belie the motor that's churning under the surface. The passion that seeps out every once in a while, for an instant. It's those flashes that make any emotion he shows all the more powerful for being rare.
Kind of like Duncan.
Quote of the (Post-)Game:
"This is the last team in the NBA that you can dig yourself a hole against" LeBron on trying to come back from a 21 point halftime deficit.
By The Numbers:
75.8%- Record setting shooting percentage that allowed the above 71 points in the first half, besting the 2009 record by Orlando
7- Steals by Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, the benefits of busy arms and physical defense
29- So Leonard for Kawhi to have a new career high in points and it's not quite 30 points, but he's STILL being called a superstar. #thatssoleonard
32- Free Throw attempts by the Spurs, after having only 20 in Game 2. The Spurs, led by Leonard, were much more aggressive in Game 3, and it was awarded with multiple trips to the stripe.
Tweets N' Things:
Still missed 24.2% of our shots. Adjustments coming.— Gregory Popovich (@FakeCoachPop) June 11, 2014
Breaking news from Miami: Kawhi Leonard has lost his damn mind. Current location of mind unknown.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 11, 2014
I like salsa verde.— Ben Hunt (@benhunted) June 11, 2014
Did I miss this being Danny Green's nickname? I hope I haven't gone all this time without using this beauty.
Julia Dale and Sebastian De La Cruz need to stop toying with our emotions and just get together already.— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) June 11, 2014
Don't miss Fred Silva's Game 3 Recap