No Kawhi, no problem — Spurs are 8-1 without Leonard this season
San Antonio demolished the Rockets in a conference semifinal series-clinching Game 6 with Leonard sidelined
Nearly an hour and a half before tipoff of Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, the announcement was made.
Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard (ankle) is out for tonight's game and will be replaced in starting lineup by Jonathan Simmons.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) May 11, 2017
Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, after sitting out much of the fourth quarter and all of overtime in San Antonio’s 110-107 Game 5 win with a left ankle injury, would miss his team’s opportunity to clinch the series on the road in Houston. The Spurs were doomed, right? The series would surely head back to San Antonio for a decisive Game 7. Wrong, and wrong. No Kawhi, no problem. The Spurs crushed the Rockets on their home floor in Game 6, 114-75, to claim the series and advance to the Western Conference finals, where the Golden State Warriors await.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s system doesn’t miss a beat without Leonard. It’s been that way for the entire season. San Antonio, somehow, some way, always rises to the occasion when Leonard is unable to suit up. Before Thursday, the Spurs had played eight games without Leonard, which they parlayed into seven victories with just one loss. Game 6 made them 8-1.
Here’s a quick breakdown of all nine games Leonard missed this season, the reason that he was sidelined and who on the Spurs picked up the slack in his absence.
Dec. 28, 2016 — San Antonio 119, Phoenix 98
Reason for sitting out: Stomach virus
Who picked up the slack: LaMarcus Aldridge with 27 points (10-of-12 shooting from the floor) with eight rebounds.
Dec. 30, 2016 — San Antonio 110, Portland 94
Reason for sitting out: Stomach virus
Who picked up the slack: Tony Parker and Danny Green, with 18 points apiece.
Jan. 23 — San Antonio 112, Brooklyn 86
Reason for sitting out: Rest and sore left hand (Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also out).
Who picked up the slack: Patty Mills with 20 points (4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range).
Jan. 24 — San Antonio 108, Toronto 106
Reason for sitting out: Left hand (Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Jonathon Simmons also out).
Who picked up the slack: LaMarcus Aldridge with 21 points and Patty Mills with 18 off the bench.
Feb. 6 — Memphis 89, San Antonio 74
Reason for sitting out: Quad contusion
Who picked up the slack: Four players in double figures (LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, David Lee, Manu Ginobili) but no one with more than 14 points (Lee).
March 8 — San Antonio 114, Sacramento 104
Reason for sitting out: Rest
Who picked up the slack: David Lee with 18 points in starting role, and Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills with 19 and 17, respectively, off the bench.
March 11 — San Antonio 107, Golden State 85
Reason for sitting out: Concussion (LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray also out for Spurs; Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala out for Golden State Warriors).
Who picked up the slack: Patty Mills with 21 points (5-for-7 from 3-point range).
April 7 — San Antonio 102, Dallas 89
Reason for sitting out: Rest (LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also out).
Who picked up the slack: Davis Bertans with 19 points (5-for-9 from 3-point range) and Bryn Forbes with 27 points off the bench.
May 11, Western Conference semifinals Game 6 — San Antonio 114, Houston 75
Reason for sitting out: Left ankle (Tony Parker also out)
Who picked up the slack: All starters in double figures, led by LaMarcus Aldridge with 34 points and 12 rebounds.
According to ESPN.com, Leonard could have played in Game 6 if needed, but the Spurs wanted him fully healthy for either Game 7 against the Rockets or Game 1 against the Warriors, which were both scheduled for Sunday. Leonard missing in action didn’t hinder San Antonio from closing out Houston one bit. But against the well-rested Warriors, the Spurs will need every minute from Leonard they can get.