Season 50, Game 70
San Antonio 100, Minnesota 93
54-16, 2nd in the West
Kawhi Leonard looks tired.
The Spurs won the game (Minnesota has been playing great lately, but the Spurs just kind of own them right now), but all I could think watching it was that Kawhi just isn’t quite right.
He’s short on his shot. His percentages are dipping ever so slightly (more dramatically from 3, where he is slumping). He misses key defensive rotations. Everything just seems to be a bit more labored than usual.
Mind you, he’s still great. And he’s still efficiently productive. But he just looks tired. Which isn’t surprising, given the load he is asked to carry each and every game for this team. His offensive responsibilities aren’t quite to the level of Harden or Westbrook, but his defensive responsibilities more than make up for it. Pound for pound, possession for possession, no player is asked to do more for his team than Kawhi Leonard. And it’s starting to show.
Will Pop rest him? He usually reserves that for his older players (and it pays dividends for them, long-term and short-term). By doing so, he would be acquiescing the 1-seed. But that might be a forgone conclusion, regardless. The 2-seed and health is more important that the 1-seed and a tired Kawhi.
On the bright side, Aldridge has been playing better than ever. His jumper is rounding into form, and he’s been the most aggressive I can remember him in a Spurs’ uniform. Gasol can’t miss on his shot, and he’s a natural fit with the second unit. Ginobili and Mills are both playing great. When Parker is rested, he is filling his role perfectly. Lee and Dedmon provide amazing depth in the frontcourt.
The rest of the squad is rounding into playoff form. But Kawhi is the center of the whole operation, the keystone that holds everything in place. In a sense, the team’s entire playoff fortunes rest on him. Will he have the energy to meet the challenge?
The Grizzlies come to town Thursday night. The Spurs own them one. (Or two, but we’ll start with one.)
Go Spurs Go.