Spurs Practice Report: Kawhi Leonard knows to sit in the corner
Notes from the Spurs' practice on Monday after their Game 1 domination of the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday, featuring Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner.
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard knows when to go sit in the corner. The Spurs' explosive second-year wing was 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-5 from 3 in Game 1 vs. the Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals. Four of his five 3-point attempts and nine of his points came from the corners, what is widely regarded as the most efficient shot in basketball.
Monday, Leonard spoke about how from the very beginning, the Spurs taught him to value that area of the floor and how it fits with the offense.
"Those are the most important shots," the long-armed (and fingered) small forward said before practice. "They told me that coming in my first year. That's where I am most of the game, sitting in the corner. I just work on that. For a Spurs' big wing, the key is to work from the corner. From there it's just trying to be the best I can be."
"Kawhi-So-Threerious" shot a blistering 43 percent from the corners this season and he uses that threat to open up on the inside. In Game 1, the Spurs destroyed the Grizzlies with those shots, and when they closed in, Leonard was able to drive to the basket. How Memphis adjusts to those shots in Game 2 will be huge.
Because Leonard knows exactly where he's supposed to be.
Veteran guard/forward Tracy McGrady, who has become the Spurs' victory cigar in games after being signed at the end of the season, said that when the Spurs brought him in, they made it abundantly clear there were no assurances as far as his playing time.
"There were no promises. Pop said 'I might play you or might not.' And he came to ask if I was cool with that. And I said I was cool with that. I want to play if I can, but if not, I'll support the guys."
Forward Matt Bonner still seemed incredulous about the Spurs' playoff record 14 3-pointers Monday, and remained adamant that that's not likely to happen again.
"By no means do we expect to make 14 3s every game," Bonner said before practice. "They're a great team, especially on defense and for sure they're going to play better and we're not going to shoot as well as we did.
"That's why I think we need to focus on the mental side of it. Being intense, focused, matching their physicality, executing our defensive principles so that on nights when we don't hit 14 3s we'll be in a position to win."
Bonner said that the likelihood of the Spurs' repeating their shooting performance was unlikely due to the Grizzlies' adjustments as well as an old friend called math.
"I'm a math guy, it's highly improbable we're going to shoot at the clip we did last game."
One thing the Grizzlies credited the Spurs with after the game Sunday was Bonner running the pick and pop with Parker. That forced the Memphis bigs to be stuck in no man's land. Don't show against Parker in the pick and roll, he's getting to the rim. Show against Parker, and Bonner's open.
Bonner did say that shot's not optimal compared to his normal catch-and-shoot on the perimeter with how it's executed.
"Picking and popping is very different. It's a lot harder to find your feet and locate the hoop. You don't know if the guard is coming from the weak side or someone's closing out of control, that's why it's best to just think as little as possible and if you see the hoop, shoot it."
For such a cerebral baskteball team, of course the idea is to not think about it.
At the Buzzer:
"I wasn't surprised (with Game 1's result), it's just how the game goes some days. We made a lot of shots and they missed a lot of them." -- Leonard on the Grizzlies defense being shredded.
"Last year we were up 2-0 playing well, and then the team we were playing swept us. We're trying to go in even keel." --Leonard on not getting too confident after Game 1.
"It starts with coach Pop and our assistants and the job they do implementing our system and coaching whoever's on the court to execute. And then Tim, Tony, and Manu and their ability to lead the team and create for roleplayers such as myself or themselves. And then management for being able to sign guys who can execute." -- Bonner on how the entire process leads to shooting perfrmances like the Spurs' in Game 1.
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