Kawhi Leonard MVP Case Getting Stronger.

Mar 6, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a shot against the Houston Rockets during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a shot against the Houston Rockets during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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After another stellar performance last night against the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leonard’s MVP case got a whole lot stronger.

I’m still in awe of what I saw transpire last night.

Kawhi Leonard went from a top-10 player in the NBA to possibly top-3. I know that Isaiah Thomas is “Mr. Fourth Quarter” but they may have to change that pretty soon.

NBA players get drug tested 4 times a year during the season. Kawhi Leonard had his random selection tonight. pic.twitter.com/8yVCFoSfqx

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 7, 2017

Leonard was randomly selected to be drug tested following the game against the Rockets, and i’m curious to see the results, mainly to see if he truly is human after-all.

CAN CONFIRM: KAWHI LEONARD IS NOT FROM THIS PLANET!

— NBA (@NBA) March 7, 2017

All joking aside, Leonard has been nothing short of incredible since the Rodeo Road Trip began. Specifically, this eight game winning streak.

The San Antonio Spurs welcomed the Rockets into the AT&T Center for their fourth and final matchup of the regular season. Right from the tip, the Rockets were in control.

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After the first quarter, the Rockets led the Spurs, 39-23. Not only were the Spurs unable to produce efficient offense, but they were giving up uncontested threes to the most lethal three-point shooting team in the NBA.

Then, the Spurs second-unit came in and defended at a high-level, while getting easy buckets on the other end. They held the Rockets to just 15 second quarter points. At the half, the game was 54-47, advantage Rockets.

The Rockets would come out firing in the second-half, building another double digit lead. From then on, the Spurs would find their rhythm on offense, and wouldn’t let up. As I mentioned yesterday, the game would be close and likely come down to the wire, where the Spurs would out-execute the Rockets down the stretch.

Last night, that’s exactly what happened. Instead of out-execute, it was too much Leonard.

From @PaulGarciaNBA: Kawhi scored 15 of Spurs' final 19 points in final six minutes. He attempted five shots. I mean …

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 7, 2017

In the ladder stages of the game, Tony Parker would walk up the court, hand the ball of to Leonard, and he would do his thing. This doesn’t seem like a Gregg Popovich thing to do, either.

When the game is on the line for the Spurs, Leonard has been sensational. For him, it’s probably no different than playing 5-on-5 in a practice facility without the screaming fans.

With about 30 seconds left in the game, down one point, Leonard did this:

https://twitter.com/World_Wide_Wob/status/838960153059717120

Not only did he hit a cold-blooded three pointer to take the lead, but he pinned James Harden’s potential game winning layup against the backboard, forcing the Rockets to foul him.

In those 24 seconds, Leonard proved why he is MVP over everyone else in the NBA.

How many MVP candidates are also in the running for Defensive Player of the Year?

Although I don’t mind waiting for an answer, I rather just move forward.

The answer is none.

Leonard is elite on BOTH ends of the floor, and that should be rewarded, especially in era where offensive juggernauts are given a pass for their lack of defensive effort.

Danny Green asked Kawhi if he wanted to switch off guarding Harden down the stretch to catch a breather. Green: "He wasn't having it."

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 7, 2017

How many MVP candidates would have opted to not guard the opposing team’s best player? I won’t name any names, i’ll let you guys decide that one for yourselves.

Everyone has always known about Leonard’s defensive abilities. However, fans outside of San Antonio are still under the impression that Leonard is a one-way player. When, in reality, it’s his offense this year that has carried the Spurs to a 49-13 record in the West.

KL didn't see point of switching back: "I felt like I had the energy to be able to guard him still and try to make things tough for him." https://t.co/gbP3HWAG7h

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 7, 2017

Leonard’s final state line last night? 39 points on 12-of-18 shooting, along with six rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one steal, and 4-of-5 from three-point range.

Seriously?

It seems as though Leonard plays best when the competition is at it’s highest, another reason to consider him for the 2017 NBA MVP award. Don’t take my word for it, either.

https://twitter.com/JoshEberley/status/838969053154693120

Leonard has thrusted himself into rarified air.

We’re talking LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Michael Jordan type-air.

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Very few players have ever been elite on both sides of the ball, for an entire season. James, for example, is an incredible defender, but doesn’t put forth the effort that he once used to on the defensive end. Granted, James is preserving his body for the playoffs. Either way, what Leonard is doing this year is nothing short of spectacular.

In a game where Leonard was going against the favorite to win the MVP award, he ended up outscoring Harden in the fourth quarter, 17-4.  Harden is no slouch either. He finished with 39 points of his own, along with 12 assists and three rebounds. Again, when it matters most, Leonard rises to the occasion.

Unfortunately, Leonard has one huge disadvantage when it comes to the MVP, and his name is Popovich. Yes, Leonard’s own coach is his biggest disadvantage.

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  • Popovich is undoudbetly the best coach in the NBA, and in the conversation for best coach of all time. When you talk about him, you’re talking about a guy who hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1997. When you talk about him, you’re talking about a guy who can coach any team and make them a legitimate contender.

    People can make the argument that without Leonard, the Spurs would still be a playoff team in the West. Without Harden, would the Rockets be in the playoffs? Without Russell Westbrook, would the Oklahoma City Thunder be in the playoffs? Without James, would the Cleveland Cavaliers be in the playoffs?

    The argument is valid, and it’s a testament to Popovich’s greatness as a leader of men. However, he has put every single one of his players in a position to excel and succeed, and how many of them have been as dominant as Leonard? One person, and his name is Tim Duncan, the best power forward in NBA history.

    Essentially, for Leonard to secure the MVP this year, the Spurs will have to lock up the first seed in the Western Conference. As of today, the Spurs are just 2.5 games back with a matchup against the Warriors on Saturday in the AT&T Center.

    With a win, the Spurs close the gap, and take a 2-0 regular season series lead over the Warriors. Should it come to a tiebreaker at the end of the season, the Spurs would come out on top.

    Leonard will continue this MVP caliber season Wednesday when the Spurs welcome the Sacramento Kings to the AT&T Center. Hopefully, the Spurs can get an easy win and rest their starters who have played heavy minutes the last few games.

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