Kawhi Leonard left the San Antonio Spurs last summer after a successful career that saw him earn an NBA Finals MVP in 2014. Thursday night, the Raptors star nabbed his second one.
He and Toronto ousted the 2-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6 to win the franchise’s first NBA title.
The 6-foot-7 native of Southern California averaged 28.5 points through six games in the series, including three outings over 30 points from Games 2 through 5. He also earned his playoff stripes, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated, with his buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Here’s the video of Leonard receiving the MVP trophy from Silver.
When he previously took home the MVP honors in 2014, he averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and a block per contest as the Spurs knocked out LeBron James and the Heat in just five games. This time around, he did it more with offense.
As SB Nation put it at the time, Leonard compiled an efficient performance versus Miami, but put his stamp on the series with his defense.
Leonard’s versatility created problems for Miami and magic for San Antonio. He forced turnovers along with tough shots on defense, ran the floor in transition on offense, worked the boards and drained the spot-up three attempts San Antonio’s fluid ball movement created. Leonard shot 58 percent from three-point range through the NBA Finals, hitting at least half of his attempts in every game.
Let’s look at his actual performance from Thursday night in Oakland.
Kawhi Leonard Game 6 Stats
Leonard abdicated a lot of the scoring load to Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry throughout Game 6. The duo both scored 26 points, while Leonard needed 16 shots to reach 22 points.
He was balanced throughout the rest of the game, however. He grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists and recorded two steals with a block. Down the stretch, he sank free throws to provide insurance points to stiff arm the Warriors.
With so much attention on the All-Star, reserves such as Fred VanVleet broke out with 22 points (5-of-11 from behind the arc). In addition, Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points of his own.
Interestingly, Leonard also tallied 22 points in the decisive Game 5 back in the 2014 Finals. However, his previous effort was more efficient, as he only needed 10 shots overall. He ended up with a double-double as well with 10 boards.