The value of a player can be determined in two ways – how his team does with him in the lineup and how his team does with him out of the lineup.
Let us simply say that the San Antonio Spurs miss forward Kawhi Leonard. Really miss him. Really, really miss him.
With Leonard on the court in Game 1 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals, the Spurs led the Golden State Warriors by 25 points. When Leonard went out with an ankle injury, the lead vanished and the Warriors won. With Leonard absent for Game 2 on Tuesday night, it wasn’t even a game.
The Warriors led 33-16 after the first quarter and by the second the Spurs were going to their bench in an eventual 136-100 disaster. Why waste the legs of the starters when this beating was not going to stop unfolding?
The series heads to San Antonio for the next three games (if three are needed). The teams don’t play again until Saturday, which will give Leonard’s ankle time to heal. The Warriors have a few bumps and bruises, but not to any player as significant as Leonard, who has missed two of their last three playoff games.
Leonard averaged more than 33 minutes of playing time in the regular season and 25.5 points a game. The Spurs need him.