The Spurs Will Live With Kawhi, or Die Without Him

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Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs” by Mark Runyon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals went to the Golden State Warriors 113-111. The final score shows only a two point difference, but this game was nowhere close to that. There were really two games within game 1. The Kawhi Leonard game, and the no Kawhi Leonard game.

Leonard suffered an ankle injury in the 3rd quarter when he stepped on a teammates foot near the Spurs bench. He briefly left the game, but returned soon after. After playing just a few more minutes, Kawhi suffered a second ankle injury.  With 7:53 left in the 3rd quarter, Kawhi Leonard left the game and didn’t return.

Prior to Kawhi leaving the game, the Spurs were up 78-55. San Antonio had controlled the game the entire way. They held the Warriors to 16 points in the first quarter and 26 in the 2nd. At the 7:53 mark of the 3rd, the Warriors had only scored 13 points.

26 points, 53.8% shooting, and 11 made free throws is what Kawhi gave the Spurs in his 23 minutes. The Spurs looked like they could do no wrong. They were about to blow out the best team in the NBA. The Kawhi Leonard game was going perfectly for San Antonio.

The no Kawhi Leonard game has a different story. As soon as Kawhi went out of the game, the Warriors went on an 18-0 run. It’s as if they were playing a different team. San Antonio fell apart without Kawhi Leonard on the floor.

Here’s the team comparison after Kawhi left the game:

Spurs: 

33 Pts, 13-35 (37.1%) FG’s, 0-7 (0%) 3pt FG’s, 7-10 (70%) FT’s, 8 TO’s

Warriors: 

58 Pts, 21-36 (58.3%) FG’s, 6-17 (35.3%) 3pt FG’s, 10-14 (71.4%) FT’s, 7 TO’s

Before Kawhi went out, the Spurs made 27-49 FG’s (55.1%). During that same time span, the Warriors made 18-45 FG’s (40%). The Spurs had an 18% decrease, while the Warriors had an 18.3% increase in FG percentage without Kawhi on the floor.

San Antonio may have been able to beat the Houston Rockets without Kawhi, but they won’t be able to do it against the Warriors. The Warriors are on a different level. Against the Rockets, all they had to do was take James Harden out of the game. To beat the Warriors, they’ll have to take Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant out the game. Not even Gregg Popovich could figure that one out.

Being down 1-0 without Kawhi Leonard is the worst possbile situation the Spurs could be in. It’s already bad enough losing the game, but to lose a 23 point lead after your best player leaves the game is a nightmare.

The numbers tell us that if Kawhi had played the whole game, San Antonio would be up 1-0 right now. The Spurs played a different game without him. If they continue to play that game, this will be another 4-0 sweep for the Warriors. Spurs fans everywhere better hope and pray that Kawhi Leonard heals fast.

Kawhi is the only chance the Spurs have to beat the Warriors. Period. They”ll live with Kawhi, or die without him.

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