This play is barely notable at first glance. Kyle Singler simply bobbled the ball and allowed Kawhi Leonard an easy steal and dunk, right? Well, kind of. But context always matters, and in this case indicates just how intimidating the San Antonio Spurs’ best player is while closing out to shooters.
Look at Singler as Russell Westbrook’s weak kick-out is about hit his hands. Instead of looking the ball in for a catch, the Oklahoma City Thunder wing’s eyes are squarely on the defender coming his way, and rightfully so – that’s Leonard, basketball’s most dangerous thief.
Singler’s brief glance up at the reigning Finals MVP causes him to fumble the ball, allowing Leonard an opportunity to tip it with his Klaws. He taps the ball forward with ease, then uses a push-out dribble to get a head of steam before going off to the races. Curtains. Nobody will catch the 23 year-old in a footrace.
Think of it like this – a wide receiver coming across the middle of the field and dropping a pinpoint throw because he “heard footsteps” from the safety crashing down from the top. That’s what it’s like to be defended by Leonard while catching a kick-out. Scary.
In a near must win-game for Westbrook and company, the surging Spurs are dominating the Thunder early. Led by Leonard’s 12 points and two swipes, San Antonio is up 29-10 after one quarter.
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