Popovich usually avoids making statements like this, instead opting to praise the team as a whole. But even he has been amazed by what Leonard did against Memphis. After being primarily a strong defender when he entered the league, Leonard has grown into an offensive weapon.
He averaged 31.2 points against the Grizzlies in six games, all while maintaining his defensive efficiency. He averaged 2.0 steals and 6.0 rebounds, playing 37.5 minutes per game. Not many players can play such high-energy offense and defense throughout the majority of the game.
As for Leonard, he remained humble when told about Popovich’s statement.
Game Womens Justin March-Lillard Jersey I think a lot of guys are capable of doing that, he said. A lot of guys are taking care of their body. NBA players are some of the best-conditioned guys in athletics, in their sport, so they can definitely do it. I think a lot of times coaches get sidetracked by what other guys, what the media said or whatever. But you just got to go off what you feel, how the guys feel, how the players feel and what your team needs at this time. So, if Bron plays 46 minutes and [Kyrie Irving] plays 45 minutes and we win, then it’s worth it. And if we need them to play that many minutes to win in the playoffs, then it’s absolutely worth it.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked about managing Westbrook’s minutes in the playoffs and said he wanted to play him more. While the guard did average more than he did in the regular season (34.6) it wasn’t a huge increase.
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Maybe Donovan now wishes he had played Westbrook a little more, but of course hindsight is 20/20.