As the top two teams in the NBA clashed in a nationally televised game Saturday night, Kawhi Leonard emerged as the most complete player on the court.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year sparked the Spurs to an 87-79 victory over Golden State by dominating on both ends of the floor.
Leonard earned his first career All-Star nomination by flourishing as a scorer, posting 20.9 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the field, 46.7 percent shooting from 3-point range and 88.4 percent at the foul line, all career-highs.
Against the Warriors, Leonard struggled to find his shot, connecting on 5-of-14 attempts from the field, but he found numerous ways to impact the game. Leonard tallied 18 points, a season-high 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Rejecting shots has become a forte of Leonard’s, as his 60 blocks this year ranks fourth among all small forwards.
Just in time for the fantasy basketball playoffs, Leonard has been one of the most complete players in the league, averaging 23 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in his last five appearances.
Saturday’s victory leaves San Antonio just three games back of the Warriors for the top seed in the Western Conference, and with the Spurs improving their home winning streak to 44 consecutive games, winning out will be a priority for the team.
The pursuit of home court advantage will enable Leonard to play as many minutes as possible, as he has logged 37 or more minutes in three of his last five games, providing him numerous opportunities to rack up gaudy statistics in the fantasy basketball playoffs.
Biggest Surprise: Bismack Biyombo– Toronto Raptors
A hand injury to starting center Jonas Valanciunas has paved the way for Biyombo to grab every rebound for Toronto. Thursday against the Pacers, Biyombo pulled down 25 rebounds, with nine coming on the offensive end of the floor, marking the fifth highest rebounding effort in the NBA this season. In his past three games, the Congo native is averaging 16.3 rebounds per game and has blocked at least two shots in each of his past seven appearances.
Biggest Disappointment: J.R. Smith– Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers expect Smith to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the trio of stars by creating his own offense. While Smith has produced eight 20-point scoring efforts this season, none have come in the last 18 games. Saturday in Miami, the 18th overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft scored just two points on 1-of-2 shooting from the field. The Heat has limited Smith to just 16 points on 27 percent shooting from the field in three games.
Pick ’em Up: D.J. Augustin– Denver Nuggets
The move to Denver has clearly revitalized Augustin. During 16 appearances with the Nuggets, the 6-foot point guard has already scored 60 more points than he did in 34 games in Oklahoma City. Augustin has dished out seven or more assists in three of his last five games and Friday in Charlotte, he poured in 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. The Nuggets are actively searching for ways to keep him out on the floor, even playing him at shooting guard alongside rookie Emmanuel Mudiay.
Put ’em Down: Marcus Smart– Boston Celtics
Since the All-Star break, Smart is shooting just 31.4 percent from the field and averaging just 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Smart turned a terrible shooting performance Wednesday against the Thunder, connecting on just 1-of-10 attempts from the field, marking the 10th time this season he has shot below 20 percent from the field. The Celtics have started to reduce his minutes, limiting his productivity in fantasy basketball.
Injury Watch: Pau Gasol– Chicago Bulls
Swelling in the right knee of Gasol has forced him to miss each of the past four games and following shoot-around Saturday morning, he acknowledged he may no be 100 percent for the remainder of the year. The Bulls are battling Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the return of the All-Star forward would certainly provide a lift, but the team is going to be cautious. Gasol plans to practice with the team Tuesday and is aiming to return to the floor Wednesday against New York.
Stat of the Week: Zach Randolph– Memphis Grizzlies
In his 9174th career appearance, Randolph finally logged his first career triple-double. A knee injury kept the former Michigan State star out of each the past seven games, but the Clippers couldn’t find any answers for him in his return. Randolph posted 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Grizzlies improved to 10 games above .500 Saturday night. At the age of 34, Randolph became the third oldest player in league history to tally his first career triple-double. Only Dennis Rodman and Matt Barnes recorded their first career triple-double at an older age.