Kawhi Leonard, the soft-spoken Spurs star who shined during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, might be sore today — and not just because he had quite the workout. Nope, Leonard, who scored a career-high 29 points — 18 of which came in the first half — and banked four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, might need to don some Icy Hot because of the way Coach Gregg Popovich congratulated him for his outstanding play.
Popovich might look like angry, but this is actually his form of “happy.” At the postgame news conference he continued to express his glee about Leonard, albeit in a truly Popovichian manner:
“That’s how he’s played all year long, he’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough. That’s just the way it is. He’s got that kind of talent, where, you know, it’s the NBA Finals. You can’t just be mediocre out there if you want to win a game. Everybody’s got to play well and he did that.”
It was unselfish basketball at its best: nine of the team’s 13 first-quarter field goals involved assists, and the resulting stats for the first quarter were mind-blowing: the Spurs set an NBA Finals record by shooting 86.7 percent in that opening frame. They scored 41 points during the quarter, including three from this tremendous shot at the buzzer by Manu Ginobili.
By the end of the first half, the Spurs had racked up 71 points compared with Miami’s 50. Although the Heat tried to catch up during the second half — at points they even closed the gap to single digits — they ultimately got outplayed. The Spurs came out on top 111-92 and now lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Thursday at 9 p.m. EST in Miami.