Klaw somehow up upped the ante even more in Game 3.
Lost amid Isaiah Thomas’ 42 points as the C’s survived a 3-0 hole against Atlanta, and Cleveland’s first win in Detroit to all but end their first-round matchup against Stan Van Gundy’s hubris-filled squad, was Kawhi Leonard leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 3-0 advantage against Memphis on Friday night.
On a simple numbers basis, Leonard was dominant on both sides of the floor to an extent never before seen in the modern game. That’s not an exaggeration, the stats will make you shake your head at his overall dominion over the injury-depleted Grizzlies.
The injuries are probably the only thing preventing us from even more embellishment. The Grizzlies have to be close to the worst team in the playoffs this spring. They’re missing their All-NBA center, Marc Gasol, and their facilitator, Mike Conley, as well as a bevy of important backups and role pieces (Jordan Farmer, Brandan Wright etc.). But, that doesn’t matter. The numbers Kawhi put up on Friday night will make you wonder if he’ll be making your All-Time Mount Rushmore one day.
No player (tip of the hat to Matthew Tynan for bringing this to our attention) since the 1983-84 season has connected on six or more three-pointers, blocked five or more shots and swiped four or more steals in a single game. Until now.
That’s not all. Kawhi was the first player to put up more than 30 points and five blocks in a game without a single turnover since Shaq did it in May of 2000 (the most dominant season of the Big Aristotle’s career).
Leonard’s line at the end of San Antonio’s 96-87 win, 32 points on 11-for-22 shooting and 6-of-9 from deep, seven rebounds, two assists, four steals and five blocks was an all-court masterpiece. It’s why Zach Randolph paid Kawhi the ultimate compliment after the game:
“Kawhi Leonard’s got to be one of the top two, top three, players in the league at both ends,” Randolph said. “That kid is the silent assassin.”
The defense you all know, especially after he won his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award earlier this month. Here’s a tiny smattering from Friday night:
klaw's a mutant pic.twitter.com/zrBWAyRHVR
— Person (@SpencerTyrel) April 23, 2016
But he was also 6-of-9 from deep, and it seemed like every time the Spurs looked to be in trouble against the upstart Grizzlies, Klaw popped free in a corner for a triple.
Then there was this isolation against Tony Allen late in the game. The “Grindfather” is one of the best one-on-one perimeter defenders over the last decade. But Leonard elevated over him anyway for a tricky pull-up that was downright MJ-esque.
It’s becoming more and more apparent: The only defender who could possibly stop Kawhi, is probably only Kawhi.