The San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night grabbed a critical 110-107 win in overtime in Game 5 over the Houston Rockets to grab a 3-2 series, but the focus has quickly shifted on the health of star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard suffered an ankle injury midway through the third quarter after he stepped on Rockets’ All-Star guard James Harden’s foot as he was attempting to get going in transition after a stolen pass from teammate Patty Mills. Leonard shortly thereafter limped to the bench during the next timeout where he retied his shoe and later re-entered the game.
“No way Kawhi Leonard misses the next game.”
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 10, 2017
From that point on, Kawhi Leonard struggled to be a factor on both ends of the floor due to the injury and did not play in the extra period. However, he finished with his third double-double of the series with 22 points and a team-high 15 rebounds. Following the game, Leonard told ESPN that he plans on playing in Game 6 at the Toyota Center in Houston on Thursday night.
“Yeah, I’m going to be able to play,” Leonard said. “It was frustrating because I wanted to play. But I was happy seeing my teammates out there putting in a good effort and getting the win.”
In Kawhi Leonard’s absence, the Spurs were able to pull out a win in overtime behind balanced team play that included Manu Ginobili scoring 12 points with seven rebounds, and five assists along with sealing the win a block of Harden’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer in the extra period.
If there was a positive to take away in regards to Kawhi Leonard’s injury is that he did not walk with a noticeable limp in the locker room following the game. In fact, the day off on Wednesday should provide Leonard with much-needed time to rest his ankle ahead of an all-important Game 6 that will be a prime opportunity for the Spurs to advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.
Kawhi Leonard has had his fingerprints all over the series against the Rockets averaging 23.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists through the first five games. This includes notching three double-doubles while scoring 20 or more points in all but one contest. Kawhi Leonard has taken his game to the next level in the postseason leading the Spurs as the primary offensive force averaging 27.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent from beyond the arc along with 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.7 steals in 11 games played.
The Spurs have been a well-oiled offensive machine currently holding the third-best playoff net rating (4.0) and offensive rating (112.3) in the league. They have scored more than 100 points in eight of their 11 playoff games with Kawhi Leonard scoring at least 30 points four times.
If Kawhi Leonard is limited in any fashion, the Spurs will need a collective strong play from the rest of the team to combat the high level of production from Harden, who is averaging 27.4 points, 10.2 assists, and 5.0 rebounds. He is also coming off his first triple-double of this year’s playoffs notching 33 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. Harden also has a 40-point performance in the series that occurred at the Toyota Center in the 103-92 loss in Game 3.
San Antonio may once again employ the defensive strategy to force Harden to work alone in isolation offensively to beat them given that each of his highest scoring outputs in the series has come in a pair of losses.
With Kawhi Leonard presumably giving it a go, Spurs fans are rejoicing over the fact that their star player will be on the floor to potentially close out the series in Game 6.
Kawhi Leonard WILL play Game 6 tomorrow in Houston! #GoSpursGo
— S ȶ e v e (@Steveanthony_3) May 10, 2017
Kawhi Leonard said he’ll be ready to go for game 6. THANK BABY JESUS!!!????????#gospursgo
— d.a. (@deep3da) May 10, 2017
— Joane Leonard (@mayjoane16) May 10, 2017
— Virtue (@NoDQ_Virtue) May 10, 2017
Kawhi Leonard’s a warrior. Despite the injury in Gm 5, it’s like he didn’t skip a beat. Glad one superstar can stay healthy when some can’t
— Brian Lu (@rpgmaster4) May 10, 2017
— R¡CH@Rd (@ridin03Harley) May 10, 2017
All in all, the Spurs will be looking to grab a second road win in three games with Kawhi Leonard leading the way on Thursday night.
[Featured Image by Eric Gay/AP Images]