If this was the season the San Antonio Spurs were supposed to lay down and end their Championship run, someone forgot to tell the Spurs.
The U.S. News And World Report is reporting that the Spurs went back to its "interchangeable parts" game plan and took a 2 games to 1 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Spurs have won two games in a row.
The Spurs' Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points to lead all players. The Spurs' forward, usually a defensive stalwart, and just named the NBA's Defensive Player Of The Year, hit 13 of 18 shots, and was hitting all different kinds of shots, from long bombs to dunks and in between. The Spurs also elevated their team defensive effort, holding the Clippers to a franchise playoff low of 73 points, and only 11 in the third quarter. The Clippers were cold all around, hitting just 34 percent of shots, and only 26 percent of three-point shots.
"We've had this happen a couple of times this year, we lose our spirit because we can't make shots," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "I thought that's what happened as the game went on. Every time we missed a shot, we played less and less defense."
It was Leonard's performance, however that had tongues wagging. "He continues to impress me every time he's out there," Spurs veteran center Tim Duncan said. "He can put on a show like that in a situation like this. It's not only great for us, but it's impressive to watch."
USA Today is reporting that Leonard's former college coach, San Diego State's Steve Fisher, was in attendance for the game at the Spurs home court, the AT&T Center. And, he was duly impressed.
"What a phenomenal game," Fisher told USA TODAY Sports by phone. "At both ends of the floor just incredible. If you're around him like we were for two years, you saw the work ethic that he had and the competitiveness to where you knew that he was going to continue to get better. But to see him play like this, I just smile and shake my head. It's absolutely incredible. But he's got that inner confidence. He's good, and he knows he's good."
Though Leonard's effort helped the Spurs to the 2-1 lead, it may also end up costing the Spurs in the long run. Leonard will become a restricted free agent after the season. And, since the Spurs didn't extend or renew his contract at the end of last season, they will have to come up with a maximum contract to keep Leonard with the Spurs.
[Image courtesy of Chris Covatta/Getty Images]