Kawhi Leonard will not play for the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday, the team announced. The swingman and MVP candidate will miss his second consecutive playoff game and third in total due to a sprained left ankle, with the injury exacerbated by a Game 1 collision with Golden State center Zaza Pachulia.
The Spurs announced the move hours before the Game 3 showdown in San Antonio:
Kawhi Leonard will not play tonight, per Coach Pop
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 20, 2017
”Kawhi is out,” Popovich said. ”I spoke to Kawhi, we spoke to everybody, we all speak about it,” Popovich said. ”In the end, I guess it’s my decision. He’s not thrilled he’s not playing, but he’s not ready.”
The Spurs are down 2-0 in the series, and will once again start 28-year old D-League product Jonathan Simmons in the All-Star’s spot. Simmons, who contributed a team-high 22 points in his team’s blowout 136-100 loss to the Warriors in Game 2, received high praise as from coach Gregg Popovich following that defeat:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 17, 2017
“Jon was in a category by himself,” coach Pop told reporters on Tuesday. “Everybody else was in the other category.” Simmons was just one of two Spurs, beside deep reserve Davis Bertans, to score in double-figures in the loss.
The Warriors have outscored the Spurs by 61 points in the 68 minutes the star has sat since Zaza Pachulia ran underneath the swingman in what Popovich called an “unsportsmanlike” and “dangerous” play.
Popovich relayed that he found his team to be lacking belief, prior to lining up without its star in Game 2:
"We maybe felt it too much, Kawhi being gone… I don't think they believed."
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 17, 2017
Pachulia, who suffered a bruised right heel in Game 2 prior to leaving that contest, will not play in Game 3 as well. Neither will Golden State Swiss Army swingman Andre Iguodala, still smarting through a knee injury. The transaction is hardly worth it, for San Antonio.
The Spurs do have a history in downing the Warriors, while in San Antonio and with Leonard on the sideline. A Davis Bertrans and Patty Mills-led crew of helpers trashed Golden State by 22 earlier this year, in a 107-85 March 11 conquest that featured 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Leonard replacement Kyle Anderson. Simmons, in a bench role, scored six points.
That blowout also saw all but one Warrior starter (Zaza, ‘natch) sit due to rest, as the Warriors pointed toward the mileage accrued during a ridiculously nutty travel schedule as reason for the dive. Spurs fans should not presume that the Golden State coaching staff will decide to take the same approach this time around.
Leonard, in his sixth season, averaged 27.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals (with 45 percent three-point shooting and a 52 percent mark from the field) in 12 postseason games this year.
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