Kawhi Leonard strengthened his case for MVP behind an incredible crunch time performance and his fourth-straight 30-point game.
What a game at the AT&T Center on a Monday night!
Fresh off of being named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in five weeks, Kawhi Leonard dropped 39 points, with 15 coming in the last five minutes of the contest. He led the Spurs to their eighth straight victory and with the win the Spurs won the season-series with their I-10 rivals, 3-1.
It was Whi’s fourth-straight 30-point game and his 23rd of the season (the most for a Spur since Timmy did it back in the early 2000s). And the Spurs have needed all of his scoring as the team secured a one-point win over the Pacers, overtime wins over the Pelicans and Timberwolves and a two-point win over the Rockets over that stretch.
On March 2nd sportsbooks had Kawhi at up to 20/1 to win the MVP award. After his performance against the Rockets it’s down to around 6/1. And it should be, the Spurs have a great chance to grab the one-seed and if they do, what Kawhi is doing warrants a serious look at the award for the 25-year old.
Leonard is the only player in the league in the top-15 in offensive rating, defensive rating and usage rate. h/t Jordan Howenstine
Any talk of Kawhi being a system player or even being called a two-way player at this point is silly. He’s the seventh leading scorer in the league, arguably the best defender in the game, the clear leader and best-player-by-a-mile of a 65-win paced team and he’s undoubtedly a stone-cold killer.
After the game Gregg Popovich was asked about Kawhi and the MVP award. His reference to Kawhi’s ultra-clutch block of a James Harden layup in the final minute of a two-point game speaks to what makes Kawhi so valuable to his squad.
The block was probably the play of the game but Kawhi also scored 35% of the Spurs’ points in the game and only LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker also reached double figures for the Silver and Black. Making an overstatement to just how much he means to the Spurs at this point seems impossible. The MVP chants that the AT&T Center rains down on Leonard at the free-throw line really have real substance at this point - it’s undeniable that he’s having an MVP worthy season.
On to the game that was played.