San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard left in the third quarter of Sunday’s Game One loss to the Golden State Warriors after re-aggravating his ankle injury by stepping on Zaza Pachulia’s foot. Luckily for him, though, an MRI revealed there is no structural damage in his ankle, Michael C. Wright of ESPN NBA reported.
“Depending on his swelling sprain and mobility he could miss at least one if not two or three games,” the Fantasy Doctor’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Selene Parekh, said. “The second ankle sprain occurring so quickly after the first one will prolong his recovery, making his swelling and pain worse.”
Coach Popovich has already confirmed that Leonard is listed as doubtful for Game Two. The team seems to be taking the injury on a game-by-game basis. He joins Tony Parker among the team’s high-profile injured players in this year’s playoffs.
As demonstrated by the Warriors 23 point comeback, not having Leonard on the floor is a game-changer in this series. The Warriors entered the series as the clear-cut favorites to win the series, but Leonard’s all-around play allows his team to compete with Golden State.
Leonard is the Spurs leading scorer, averaging 27.7 ppg on 52 percent shooting during their postseason run. Prior to leaving the game with 7:52 left in the third quarter, Leonard had 26 points with eight rebounds and three assists.
The two-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year also made a great impact on the defensive end of the court, playing most of his defense on the team’s ‘point-forward’ Draymond Green. Green has arguably been the second or third best defender in the league behind Leonard over the course of the past few years, but Leonard clearly reigned supreme in this game. He helped hold down Green defensively, awarding him just nine points on six shots compared to Leonard’s 27.
Having a 23 point lead on the Warriors is never quite safe, but it makes the case that if they are going to steal a game at Golden State, it likely would have been this one. The Warriors went on an 18-2 scoring run once Kawhi left the game, bringing the deficit to only seven points. Now that Kawhi could miss a few games, the team’s hopes of reaching the NBA Finals have dwindled.
Jonathon Simmons saw his role increase once Leonard went down, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. He started in place of Kawhi in Game Seven vs the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, scoring 18 points on 66 percent shooting from the field. Veteran guard Manu Ginobili could get some extra run too.
LeMarcus Aldridge is also expected to see a bigger workload on offense. He is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 17.7 points per game this postseason. He finished Sunday’s loss with 28 points on 24 shot attempts. Expect the Spurs offense to run through him until Leonard is healthy.