Kawhi Leonard won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award on Monday, becoming the first non-center to repeat since Dennis Rodman in 1991. If you watched the San Antonio Spurs dismantle the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their first round playoff matchup on Sunday, you’ll understand why.
Leonard matched up with Lance Stephenson, who at the moment is the best perimeter player on an injury-plagued Memphis team. In the second quarter, Stephenson tried to free himself, not for an open layup, or an open shot — simply to get the ball in his hands. Leonard had other ideas:
By our count, Stephenson tries at least five different ways to free himself from Leonard, only to fail repeatedly. Although it’s not an especially memorable play, it still perfectly encapsulates the maddening experience of playing offence against him. It’s one thing to be a great defensive player against a ball-handler (which Leonard is), but it’s another thing entirely to be so stingy on defence that a player simply can’t get open.
Not bad for a guy who also scored 20 points on the offensive end.
Stephenson is arguably the most emotional player in the NBA. Luckily for us, we now know what everyone else guarded by Leonard must be thinking all game long.
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