Daily MVP Film Breakdown: Kawhi’s Career High

Kawhi Leonard returns to the place he spent the first seven years of his career tomorrow night. In the game leading up to it, he scored a career-high 45 points.

Toronto played this game without Kyle Lowry, so Leonard became the primary ball handler. It looked a lot like his MVP-candidate season in San Antonio when he blossomed into a Kobe-esque offensive talent. Only two of his 16 buckets came off an assist. The system player you thought you knew has been dead for a long time.

For a guy who isn’t really known for his dribbling skills, Kawhi’s are exceptional. He rarely dazzles you with a move, but he exhibits precise control of the ball and makes so many things happen off the bounce.

Gregg Popovich’s beautiful game went by the wayside when Leonard became one of the most efficient scorers in the league. A player as talented as Kawhi needs the ball in his hands to create scoring opportunities, and a lot of the time that means four teammates spacing the floor and standing still.

Of course a lot of the time, that’s the best offense when Kawhi Leonard is on the floor. He’s absolutely dominant in isolation, pick and rolls, and post ups. If Joe Ingles is your best hope of guarding Kawhi, you never had much hope to begin with.

Kawhi grew up in LA watching Kobe, and it shows in his footwork. It’s absolutely perfect almost every time, rarely a travel, and he’s always able to create so much space with little fundamental moves.

Leonard’s balance and poise on tough shots set him apart from most other players in the league. Whether he’s attacking the rim through contact or stopping on a dime before letting a jumper fly, he has a way of making time slow down so he can align his body and do whatever needs to be done with whichever hand needs to do it to make the ball go in the hole.

Few plays in sports require more balance and focus than a reverse layup, and Leonard put on a clinic with some truly jaw-dropping up and under finishes. His crisp handle allows him to play at any speed he wants, and he uses it to get to the rim and use it to block the shot blocker.

He did it a few times with his off hand, and the last one was shades of Dr. J switching hands and throwing it straight up in the air.

Kawhi Leonard is an extremely talented player, capable of doing things that only a few other human beings can do. His much-anticipated return to San Antonio is rich with drama and storylines, and one can only assume he’ll come in fired up to play against the team and coach that he forced himself away from. He said that it should be fun, and as we all know, Kawhi is a fun guy.

Daily previews of matchups to watch around the league, and film breakdowns of the best performance from the night before. Twitter @RealTomPetrini, Spurs interviews and analysis @projectspurs.

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