KAWHI Leonard insisted he was ready to play through an injured ankle he suffered late in the San Antonio Spurs’ 110-107 overtime win over the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their West semis series on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time).
Still, he was glad to see his teammates step up and notch the win to bring the Spurs up 3-2 in the series, and he vowed to play when San Antonio aims to finish off the Rockets in Houston on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
“Yeah, I’m going to be able to play. It was frustrating because I wanted to play. But I was happy seeing my teammates out there putting in a good effort and getting the win,” said Leonard, who sat out much of the fourth quarter and the entire overtime period after hurting his ankle midway through the third.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admitted that Leonard wanted to stay on the floor to finish the game, but the coaching staff eventually made the decision to sit him out so as not to aggravate the injury.
“He had issues, and you can tell just before he took a couple of shots he jumped off one foot. He didn’t want to come out obviously. We let him play a little while just to see what he was going to be like, but it was obvious that he couldn’t go. So I think, everybody else picked it up very well,” he said.
Game 5 hero Manu Ginobili, who replaced Leonard in the lineup down the stretch, is not thinking about playing Game 6 without their go-to guy. And the Spurs remained optimistic as well, as Leonard didn’t walk with a limp on his way to the press room.
“I don't even want to think about it because Kawhi became our go-to-guy, our three guy, three defender, rebounder. He does a ton of things for us. If he can't be out there, it's going to be very hard to react to it. For sure, it's going to be a tough battle over there," said Ginobili, who had 12 points and the game-saving block on James Harden.
Leonard, though, spoke like he’s certain to play in what he said would be a tough close-out bid against the Rockets in their home floor.
“It's going to be tough. They're a great offensive team. They're a bunch of competitive guys. They play great at home. It's going to be tough. It's going to be about taking care of the ball, playing confident and trying to minimize our mistakes," he told reporters after the game.