Head scratching. Folded arms. Solemn faces. This was the Memphis Grizzlies bench after Kawhi Leonard pulled a driving dunk with less than a minute left to seal an 96-82 victory on Monday night.
While fans are enthralled by the Russell Westbrook vs James Harden matchup and John Wall silencing his critics with his off the chart performance against the Atlanta Hawks, Leonard is quietly filling up the stat sheet and acting as a deterrent to Memphis making it past the first round.
Leonard finished Game 2 with a playoff career high 37-point, 11-rebound double-double – becoming the first player to score at least 35 points and ten rebounds in the post season since Tim Duncan in 2008 against the Phoenix Suns.
Two nights before, Leonard posted 32 points, five assists and two steals to help the Spurs blow out the Grizzlies 111-82.
Memphis head coach David Fizdale has thrown Vince Carter, James Ennis, Marc Gasol and Wayne Selden on Leonard and even resorted to assigning double teams and in both situations, Leonard has not flinched one bit. If anything, he has thrived.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year has become a highly efficient scorer, clocking an astounding 73.2 percent effective field goal percentage and shooting 100 percent from the free throw in the last two contests. In game one, he shot 11-14 from the field and 9-9 from the line and continued to blaze in game 2 as he shot 9-14 in the paint and 19-19 from the free throw line. In total, Leonard has bagged in 48 out of 56 shots from inside the arc. Looking at the advance stats, Leonard has 46 PER and a true shooting percentage of .856.
What does this mean for the San Antonio Spurs
Simply, it puts them in a position to win games. With Leonard taking a more authoritative role on offense, he has become a playmaker that brings the ball up the floor. And when he is double teamed, he draws defenders to him thus setting up other players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol for open shots and allows Tony Parker and Danny Green to shoot from the perimeter.
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With the 2-0 lead in the series, the Spurs are projected to have a 93.8 percent chance of advancing into the second round of the playoffs and a 32.8 percent chance that they can do this in five games.
By Lethabo Nxumalo
@leewritesalot on Twitter