Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three

Kawhi Leonard puts up 32 spot on Clippers (VIDEO)


The Spurs still have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, all three someday destined for the Hall of Fame.

But this is Kawhi Leonard’s team now. We’ve seen the transition take place.

Friday night Leonard tore apart the Clippers’ Matt Barnes — and Doc Rivers had no other options to turn to — on his way to a personal playoff high 32 point night. That was the backbone of a comfortable Spurs win and a 2-1 series lead.

PBT Extra: Stephen Curry starting to have his defining playoff moments

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Three

If you’re going to be a true NBA superstar, that has to come with some defining playoff moments. Whether it’s Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan or LeBron James, their biggest plays came on the biggest stages.

Tim Duncan has reminded us these playoffs that he can still do that as well.

But these feel like Stephen Curry’s playoffs. He has had the defining shot of the playoffs so far, the corner three that sent Game 3 against New Orleans into overtime. These playoffs are going to get more challenging for the Warriors, Golden State is going to need more of those moments from Curry, but he may well give us those moments. He is creating his mythology right now. He is the star in ascendance.

Behind 32 points from Kawhi Leonard, Spurs rout Clippers to take 2-1 series lead

Kawhi Leonard

For two games, the Clippers and Spurs had played each other tight, with the little things swinging games. Yet at the end of Game 2, it felt like the Spurs were starting to figure things out. They had seen this Clippers defense a lot in recent years — it’s basically what LeBron’s Heat played — and were beginning to make the plays to beat it.

Friday night they looked like they figured it all out.

The Spurs held the Clippers to 34.1 percent shooting and got 32 points from Kawhi Leonard to pull away in the second half and win handily, 100-73.

The Spurs now have a 2-1 series lead, with Game 4 Sunday in San Antonio.

“I just think it was one of those nights,” Gregg Popovich said after the game. “We had a great night shooting; they had a real difficult night shooting, and that’s a bad combination. They get a loss. We’re not that good, and they’re not what you saw tonight, without a doubt. We had a heck of a night.”

Leonard had a heck of a night at both ends for the Spurs. On defense, the just named defensive player of the year took J.J. Redick out of the game at points, then made plays on anyone he switched on to. On offense, he exposed the Clippers long-standing issues about wing defense, Matt Barnes had no answers for him.

The problem for Doc Rivers and the Clippers is they don’t have the depth to try much else if option No. 1 doesn’t work. The Clippers bench remained an issue, shooting just 11-of-41 on the night (and that looks better thanks to some garbage time buckets).

The Spurs depth was on display all game — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 12 points. This was about everyone else, such as Leonard (32) and Boris Diaw, who added 15.

The Spurs led from the start, racing out to a 25-13 lead early and keeping a comfortable lead through the first half, then they blew it open in the third quarter. The Clippers scored just 11 points in the third quarter as the Spurs defense was simply fantastic. Duncan may be turning 39 this weekend, but he can still quarterback a defense with the best of them.

We can break down the details of the game, but Popovich may be right, this may just be a one-off in a tight series where the Clippers were cold on a night the Spurs were hot. Certainly Sunday’s Game 4 should see a much more desperate Clippers squad and a closer game. More like the first couple in the series.

But it feels like San Antonio has figured Los Angeles out, and we see which way the series is trending.

The Truth (and Marcin Gortat) will set Washington free, up 3-0 on Toronto after win

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards- Game Three

When the game was hanging in the balance, Paul Pierce hit back-to-back three pointers, then ran around the phone booth — what is officially the Verizon Center in our nation’s capital — high fiving the fans and yelling, “That’s why I am here.”

For more than three quarters, it was Marcin Gortat (24 points, 13 rebounds) and the John Wall focused Wizards making enough plays to keep the Raptors just in the rear view mirror. But in the end it was a pair of Otto Porter threes followed by a pair of Pierce threes — “That’s why I am here” — that lifted the Wizards past the Raptors 106-99.

Washington is now up 3-0 in the series and can close it out Sunday at home. No team in NBA history has come from 3-0 down to win a series. And this is the first time in Wizards’ franchise history they have been up 3-0 in a series.

Once again, the Raptors were the aggressor early, with DeMar DeRozan putting up 20 points in the first quarter and Toronto going up by 10.

And once again the Raptors defense could not hold that lead. The Wizards battled back to lead in the second quarter then held on until the fourth quarter based on a lot of Gortat and John Wall (who had 19 points on 5-of15).

The Raptors would not go quietly, and behind 32 from DeRozan and 15 from Kyle Lowry on the night they battled back to take the lead. That said, those two combined for 51 of the Raptors 99 shots on the night, and for the Wizards they will live with those two taking more than half the Raptors’ shots.

But in the end it was consecutive threes from Otto Porter followed by consecutive threes from Pierce that proved to be too much. Pierce had 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards had impressive stretches behind their quality defense during the regular season, but they could not sustain it, mostly because their conventional offense was defendable. It was two bigs inside and a lot of Wall. In the playoffs, Randy Whittman has finally started to play Porter and Pierce together, with Pierce as the four, and that has given the Wizards great spacing and shooting. Toronto has had no answer.

Come Sunday, Raptors fans will gather in Jurrasic Park in Toronto, and one of the best fan bases in the NBA will cheer on their team.

But it likely will be for the final time this season.

The Wizards are moving on. That’s the Truth.

PBT Extra: Great playoff series to come in later rounds

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
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ProBasketballTalk’s Kurt Helin discusses the disappointing first round playoff series and looks ahead to the more exciting matchups that will play out in the second round.