With Tony Parker out, expect more Kawhi Leonard as Spurs’ top ballhandler

If ever the Spurs have a problem, Kawhi Leonard seems to be the answer.

Facing an 0-1 deficit after an embarrassing 27-point loss on their own floor to the Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, they turned to the two-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year to take on the challenge of checking MVP candidate James Harden. Leonard was the main reason Harden had the worst playoff performance of his career, scoring just 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting and reaching the foul line just twice as San Antonio evened the series with a 121-96 Game 2 victory Wednesday night.

But there’s also the matter of Chicago’s alternatives should they let Rondo walk. Second-year man Jerian Grant played well in 28 games as a starter, but he might not be ready for that role full-time. The Bulls traded for Cameron Payne at the deadline, too, and though he did not play much for Chicago, the team was intrigued by his potential before he was a lottery pick for the Thunder in 2015. If the Bulls let Rondo walk, they’ll be looking at two very untested options at point guard.

Green worked with former teammate and trainer Travis Walker ahead of the postseason to get that rhythm back. And it has arrived in force, with Green now averaging 14.9 points on 50.0 percent shooting and an incredible 51.2 percent 3-point shooting in the playoffs. Green has made 21 3-pointers in just eight playoff games, which is as many as he made in any month this season (he made 21 in 15 games in December). In fact, in these eight games, he has made a quarter of the number of 3s he made all year.

Of course, Green is doing his usual playoff things, too. He has been outstanding defensively, and is averaging playoff career highs in blocks (2.6), steals (2.0) and assists (7.3). The Warriors’ defensive efficiency has been the best in the playoffs (96.9 points per 100 possessions), no small feat for the team that also plays the second-fastest pace (101.3 possessions per 48 minutes).

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