The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat faced off in a rematch of the 2013 NBA Finals on Thursday night. Their seven-game series that resulted in Miami’s second consecutive title was quite a bit more tense and exciting than just about anything that happened in their matchup on Thursday, though.
The Spurs jumped on the Heat early on and never really relinquished their hold as Miami tried to chip away at the lead. After a dominant fourth quarter, the Spurs walked away with a 111-87 victory and having shut down the possible MVP of the league this season in LeBron James.
While Tim Duncan’s 23 points and 11 rebounds were a big factor in San Antonio’s success, it was really the defense that Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs played on LeBron, holding the Heat star and reigning MVP to just 19 points, seven assists and eight rebounds while forcing him to also shoot only 6-18 from the floor, 0-3 from three, and to turn the ball over five times.
Leonard’s defense on James was exceptional in the win. The youngster forced James into four of the five turnovers that LeBron committed on the night and really kept him from getting any of the looks he was trying to get. Not far removed from returning from an injury, Leonard looked like the game-changer we expect him to be on the defensive end of the floor.
What makes Leonard such a special and remarkable defender is that he holds a combination of strength, quickness, and savvy that few players in this league possess. That combination of things benefits him a great deal in that he can defend all over the floor and defend a number of positions. It’s even more important against LeBron because he can stop LeBron’s success in almost every aspect, something few players in this league even have a chance of doing.
As the Spurs are getting back to full health, including the return of Leonard, they are making it known that they will make another run at the Finals this season. With the way they can put up points with ease, but can also defend with the best teams in the league, it’s hard not to think that they’ll at least come close when the playoffs arrive.