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Kawhi Leonard played one of the best games of the season to carry Spurs in Game 2

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Leonard was the best player on the floor by scoring easily and even shutting down James Harden.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs knew they had to play much, much better in Game 2. The Houston Rockets had blown them out in Game 1, embarrassing them on their home court, and the Spurs needed to be significantly better.

In the 48 hours between the two games, much of the talk surrounded LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as the team’s defense on James Harden. In Game 2, both those things improved, particularly the Harden-led defense. (He had just 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting.) Aldridge was better with 15 points, although it took him 14 shots to reach that number. But the biggest improvement, game to game, was San Antonio’s star.

Kawhi Leonard’s Game 2 takeover was thorough and virtually without reproach.

In a 121-96 win, a blowout that was nearly as bad as Houston’s in the opening game, Leonard scored 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting. He added seven rebounds, eight assists, a block, and three steals, diversifying his stat line with the added contributions like he often has throughout his career. Leonard is consistently the best two-way player in the league, and he even mixed in a few more possessions guarding Harden one-on-one early in the game, rather than taking on that assignment late in the fourth quarter. It all worked well, and San Antonio still only had to play him 38 minutes.

Leonard is that good. In these playoffs, he has validated anyone who decided to vote for him over frontrunner and Mr. Triple-Double Russell Westbrook, as well as the potential runner-up, Harden himself. You can ask him to do just about anything on the court, even if it’s beyond his power, and he’ll put his head down and comply immediately. Fortunately for San Antonio, those situations rarely ever occur, because is there anything Leonard really can’t do on a basketball floor?

San Antonio isn’t made up of bad players, by any means, but a dirty secret around the league is that the Spurs aren’t as good as we’ve perhaps made them out to be. Despite 61 wins, San Antonio has had to lean heavily on Leonard throughout the year to be the best player, lacking enough consistency around him to direct those responsibilities to anybody else.

At every stop along the way, Leonard responded positively. Now, with the season on the line and Leonard already in the midst of a career year, the Spurs are asking him to do even more. Keep scoring on offense, they tell him, while making him defend a star opponent for even longer stretches of time.

So far, it’s working perfectly.