The Spurs embarrassed the Rockets by 39 points Thursday and did it without MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. The All-Star forward injured his left ankle in Game 5, in addition to a right knee injury he also was nursing, so Gregg Popovich made the call to sit him for Game 6.
“It’s not an empirical formula,” Popovich said before the game. “You watch, you feel, you talk to the player and you come to a decision. Going to take as much time as possible, see what he feels like, see what I see and make a decision.”
According to ESPN, Leonard “could have played … but the Spurs decided they’d rather have him healthy for Sunday” against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The decision to rest Leonard in a potential series-clinching road game where he could have played is somewhat surprising, but it obviously paid off.
Perhaps history made Popovich confident as the Spurs are now 7-1 this season in games in which Leonard didn’t play.
Filling in for Leonard was Jonathon Simmons, who played admirably, scoring 18 points while having a plus-minus of plus-32. LaMarcus Aldridge also improved his game, scoring a game-high 34 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.
Not only did San Antonio get the win, but Leonard will now be even healthier for the series against the Warriors, too. ESPN’s report also states Leonard will indeed play in the series, setting the stage for an exciting matchup.