Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs played like an All-Star in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, leading the team with a career-high 29 points on a scorching 10-of-13 shooting.
Coach Gregg Popovich was so impressed with Leonard’s performance, he even gave the 22-year-old some celebratory punches to his chest in good spirit.
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) June 11, 2014
Leonard joined both Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers as the only players in NBA history under the age of 23 to score 29 or more points during an NBA Finals game.
That wasn’t the only record Leonard established for himself on that night, though.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Leonard (22 years, 346 days) passed James Worthy (23 years, 93 days) to become the youngest player in NBA Finals history to score at least 25 points on better than 75% shooting.
This was an offensive outburst that not many people saw coming. He failed to reach double-figure scoring in the first two games of the series, dropping nine points in both Game 1 and 2. In fact, Leonard has scored 20 or more points in just 12 of his 243 (regular season and postseason) career games as a Spur prior to Game 3.
Even so, with the bright lights shining down and the world watching with anticipation, Leonard proved that he can be a difference-maker in the series when he’s aggressive and willing to take chances on both ends of the court.
It will be interesting to see if he can duplicate his success in Game 4 on Thursday, but even if he can’t, the Heat know now that Leonard is the real deal, if they weren’t already well aware of that before.