Kawhi Leonard is the answer to Bobby Ramos’s question


(AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARYTIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots and finished the half with a 75.8 percent shooting percentage (25-for-33 in the first half) on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, something we haven’t seen since Orlando shot 75 percent against the Lakers in the 2009 Finals.

It was a thrashing so severe that, naturally, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were asked about it during the post-game presser, including this question from Bobby Ramos:

This is for both of you, you have a great defense. They’re averaging 104 points a game. You have a lot of offense, you haven’t broken a hundred yet. Is the problem your lackluster defense or is it the problems you’re having offensively, lackluster offense?

After a lengthy, awkward silence, Wade responded: “The problem is we’re down 2 games to 1.  That is the problem.  We’ve got to figure out how to tie it up.”

Actually, the problem for the Heat is Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who scored a career-high 29 points and didn’t settle for the mid-range jumper but instead was aggressive at the rim and created opportunities for his teammates.

Even when the Heat did manage to put a hand in Leonard’s face it didn’t matter, as he went 5 for 5 on contested shots —  taken when a defender was within four feet. Leonard was also constantly on the move, either to get a three-point shot or take advantage of a defender by driving to the basket.

“I just found a rhythm and my teammates found me the ball. I made shots,” Leonard said.

Defensively, Leonard helped make life difficult for James, making him fight through a double-team if he came into the paint.


LeBron James Game 3 of 2014 NBA Finals

And once the game got out of hand, James and the Heat couldn’t rely on posting up in the paint, instead needing quick hits from the outside to trim the lead. James would finish with seven turnovers and five fouls and continued to be less effective when facing Leonard in the Finals.

“I turned the ball over way too much,” James said. “I had five in the second half, and some of them were trying to make some plays to my teammates, and some of them were just over-dribbling at times.”

“Our rotations – we didn’t make them,” Miami forward Chris Bosh said. “Our one-on-one defense was really bad. Our containment on the closeouts were bad. Help was bad. Everything was bad.”

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.

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Michael Caley · June 11, 2014