Kawhi Leonard was not favored to finish in the top three in voting for the Most Valuable Player with Russell Westbrook and James Harden having historic seasons. But that was before an epic performance against the Houston Rockets put him back in the spotlight.
Leonard’s 39 points and defensive effort led the San Antonio Spurs to another come from behind win, this time against the Houston Rockets, on Monday night at the AT&T Center.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 15 points, eight rebounds, and one key block on Nene to keep the Silver and Black ahead 110-108. Tony Parker broke out of his slump to score 17 points, including three corner shots from beyond the arc.
San Antonio trailed 39-23 after the opening 12 minutes, but would use a 21-4 run in the third quarter to take a slim 79-77 lead. Things were close until the closing moments of regulation when Leonard nailed the go-ahead three-pointer and blocked Harden’s shot off the backboard to seal the 112-110 win.
“The block is what makes him special,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Leonard. [James] Harden makes threes, Steph (Stephen Curry) hits threes, everybody does that. But I don’t know anybody who goes to the other end and does what he does.”
The Rockets were led by James Harden’s 39 points, 12 assists, and seven turnovers. Trevor Ariza added 13 points for Houston (44-20), who lost the season series to the Spurs 1-3.
- Player of the Game: Uh, it’s David Lee. Kidding. It’s Kawhi Leonard, who scored 17 points on just five shots in the final two minutes per Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia. His streak of 30-point games and defense is quickly making others re-think their MVP choice.
Kawhi drug tested (seriously): Leonard’s epic performance in the final moments was so good, the NBA had him drug tested after the game…seriously. But no worries, the league does the drug tests randomly throughout the season and this was just routine.
Up next: The Spurs are now 49-13 on the season and will return to the court on Wednesday when they welcome the Sacramento Kings to the AT&T Center at 7:30 p.m.