It was the type of performance normally reserved for athletes with multiple years in the league and numerous postseason appearances. Wednesday marked only the second playoff game for the former San Diego State standout the first was Sunday and Popovich acknowledged the player who was traded for Spurs fan favorite George Hill is quickly turning into something special.
"Kawhi is someone who, I guess it's fair to say, surprised us. Because you don't really know when you draft someone. … In Kawhi's case he's absorbed information really well," Popovich said. "He performs his role, he plays defense, he runs down the floor, and he's got a way about him where he's not so anxious to show us that he has every move in the world. … He's level-headed and takes things when they come."
Leonard has stolen from the Jazz.
Spurs veteran forward Stephen Jackson came off the bench to serve as the X-Factor in Game 1. But Leonard's been the best overall non-star through two contests. He's averaging 11.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting, while hitting 4 of 7 3s and pulling down 2.5 rebounds per game.
And he's doing it all as a smooth, confident 20-year-old rookie.
"He blends in with everybody else. … He plays his role and a lot of rookies can't do that, and he's been really good at it," Popovich said.
The numbers of a veteran by a rookie
Spurs rookie forward Kawhi Leonard in Game 2:
FG FT 3pt Pts Reb Ast Stl
6-7 2-2 3-4 17 3 1 2