San Antonio Spurs News

Kawhi Leonard’s Absence Proved His Worth

Mar 9, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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Kawhi Leonard was sidelined late in the third quarter after taking an apparent hit to the face, and was unable to return to the game.

What was once a highly anticipated matchup between two MVP candidates, became a one sided show as Russell Westbrook notched another triple-double in the Oklahoma City Thunder victory over the San Antonio Spurs, 102-92.

Although reports have not solidified Leonard’s status one way or another, we at least know that it was a hit to the face, and he was probably held out for precautionary reasons.

Pop says Kawhi Leonard was hit on the mouth or cheek, and the Spurs' Athletic Trainer felt it was best to rest him the rest of the night.

— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) March 10, 2017

Obviously, it’s unfortunate that the nine game winning streak had to come to an end, especially when you consider that the game was still within striking distance if Leonard was able to play in the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, Westbrook and the Thunder looked like the hungrier team, and earned their victory.

Gregg Popovich does not have time for these "excuses": pic.twitter.com/2ZO1s3MKO5

— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) March 10, 2017

It’s also worth noting that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli weren’t able to suit up for this game, so the Spurs were playing a little shorthanded, especially after Leonard’s absence.

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On the other hand, the Thunder were on a four game winning streak, and were desperate for a victory. Not to mention, the Thunder are 24-9 at home this season, one of best home records in the NBA.

For Spurs fans, this game is definitely not a cause for concern. In that fourth quarter, head coach Gregg Popovich was experimenting with his lineups, even giving rookie Bryn Forbes 16 minutes.

The only concern that Spurs fans should have is Leonard’s health status after that shot to the face. With a matchup looming against the #1 seed Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Leonard’s health is a major factor.

Spurs confirming Leonard got hit in the head. They don't think he suffered a concussion. We'll update after Pop talks.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 10, 2017

It was evident last night that Leonard’s absence heavily affected the Spurs. Yes, they had just come off a 28-point comeback without him the night before, but that was against the Sacramento Kings.

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Against a playoff team like the Thunder, the Spurs struggled mightily to score on offense, and defend with any kind of consistency.

For those who question Leonard’s value to the Spurs, must not watch the Spurs. Not only would Leonard have been more aggressive offensively in that final quarter, but he probably would have guarded Westbrook. No one is saying he would have shut Westbrook down, but he definitely would have made his life more difficult.

If the playoffs ended today, the Spurs would face the Thunder in the first round, causing some chatter among fans that the Spurs would struggle. The Thunder go as Westbrook goes, and against a healthy Spurs squad, the Spurs would beat them in five games, maybe six.

The Spurs simply came out flat on the road, and for the first time in the past nine games, the Spurs weren’t able to muster up a comeback victory. It happens.

The Spurs have found themselves in an average hole of being down by 13.5 points in their last 6 games: https://t.co/hERB2x0JTQ pic.twitter.com/My3HhIozFu

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 10, 2017

As long as Leonard is ready to roll, the game against the Warriors is all that matters.

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Stay tuned for more updates on Leonard’s injury status.

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