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After Kawhi Leonard's ankle injury, jarring stat spells trouble for San Antonio Spurs

The Golden State Warriors overcame a 25-point deficit on Sunday to beat the San Antonio Spurs 113-111 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

However, more than the comeback, the biggest story of the game was Kawhi Leonard's ankle injury that took him out of the game in the third quarter.

At the time of Leonard's injury, the Spurs had been in commanding control, building a double-digit lead, up by 20 at halftime and 21 when he landed on the foot of Zaza Pachulia. Leonard shot two free throws then left the game for good.

From there, the Warriors took over. They promptly went on an 18-0 run, getting right back into the game.

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NBA power rankings leading into the playoffs
16. Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Record: 41-41

First-Round Opponent: Golden State Warriors

One thing to know: The Blazers have had the fourth-best record in the league, with a hot offense and improving defense since the All-Star break. Unfortunately, the spark of that turnaround, Jusuf Nurkic, is out with a fractured leg, and the Blazers now get a hot and healthy Warriors team. It will take some heroic Damian Lillard performances to give Portland a chance.

(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
15. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Record: 43-39

First-Round Opponent: San Antonio Spurs

One thing to know: Since the All-Star break, the Grizzlies have gone just 9-15, and their trademark defense has been 20th in the league during that time frame. They went 1-3 against the Spurs this season and simply don't have the necessary wing strength to hang with San Antonio.

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
14. Indiana Pacers (7)

Record: 42-40

First-Round Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

One thing to know: Paul George has been on fire since the All-Star break, averaging 26 points per game on 49% shooting, 41% from three. The Pacers could normally feel good about any matchup with George on their side, but unfortunately, they get the Cavs in the first round, with LeBron James on the other side. George and James' double-overtime duel in April, with the Cavs eventually winning, could be an indicator of how this series will go.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
13. Chicago Bulls (8)

Record: 41-41

First-Round Opponent: Boston Celtics

One thing to know: The Bulls, due to a blend of internal head-butting and bland basketball, have been uninspiring for much of this season. However, they've gone 10-6 over the last month, Jimmy Butler has had an All-NBA season, Rajon Rondo has had a late-season revival, and Dwyane Wade is healthy again. They split the season series with the Celtics and their size and one-on-one scoring could be a problem for Boston.

(Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
12. Atlanta Hawks (5)

Record: 43-39

First-Round Opponent: Washington Wizards

One thing to know: The Hawks have gone just 11-15 since the All-Star break with a negative point-differential. They seemed on the verge of tearing it all down earlier in the year, but decided to keep their main core together. They lost three of four to the Wizards this season, and point guard Dennis Schroeder was well below his season averages in those contests.

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
11. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Record: 42-40

First-Round Opponent: Toronto Raptors

One thing to know: The Bucks have been the Giannis Antetokounmpo show all season, as the 22-year-old "Greek Freak" led the team in all five major categories. Such a formula may not be beneficial in the playoffs, as the Bucks may lack the depth to really put a scare into the Raptors.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
10. Washington Wizards (4)

Record: 49-33

First-Round Opponent: Atlanta Hawks

One thing to know: After a ridiculously hot midseason stretch, the Wizards cooled off after the All-Star game. Perhaps it was a bit of late-season malaise, but since the All-Star break, the Wiz have had the NBA's fourth-worst defense. Luckily for them, Atlanta doesn't have anybody who can stop John Wall and Bradley Beal.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Record: 47-35

First-Round Opponent: Houston Rockets

One thing to know: Russell Westbrook's late-season heroics have helped give the Thunder something to feel good about down the stretch, even if they masked some concerning near-losses to inferior foes. OKC lost three of four to the Rockets this season, but Westbrook played well, averaging 36-9-9 with 37% three-point shooting. Regardless of the outcome, the Thunder's size and physicality assures nothing will come easy for Houston.

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
8. Houston Rockets (3)

Record: 55-27

First-Round Opponent: Oklahoma City Thunder

One thing to know: The Rockets have quietly struggled down the stretch, going just 9-6 over the final month while their defense slipped to 20th during that time. James Harden is battling a wrist injury and has shot just 42% in April.

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
7. Utah Jazz (5)

Record: 51-31

First-Round Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers

One thing to know: The story for the Jazz all season long has been health. In the games they've had their optimal starting lineup of George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, they've gone 12-2. They took a huge step forward this year, thanks to improvement from Hayward and Gobert, but now they have to prove themselves in the postseason.

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (2)

Record: 51-31

First-Round Opponent: Indiana Pacers

One thing to know: The Cavs massively underwhelmed this season, winning just 51 games, the fewest for a LeBron team since 2007. There's still a belief that James and company can turn it on for the postseason, but their 12-15 record since All-Star and 29th-ranked defense during that stretch certainly leave room to worry.

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
5. Boston Celtics (1)

Record: 52-30

First-Round Opponent: Chicago Bulls

One thing to know: The Celtics have been one of the NBA's best stories in capturing first place, but now the pressure is on for the playoffs. They haven't won a playoff series with this current core, and they stood pat at the deadline, opting not to make a big move. Some feel a first-round exit would make the season a failure.

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (4)

Record: 51-31

First-Round Opponent: Utah Jazz

One thing to know: The Clippers have underwhelmed for most of the season, but they started and finished hot, partially because that's when they've been healthy. Since March 13, they've gone 11-5 with the league's best offense and slightly below-average defense. The Clips have a lot to prove in the postseason, and they've been waiting all year to do it.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
3. Toronto Raptors (4)

Record: 51-31

First-Round Opponent: Milwaukee Bucks

One thing to know: The best record in the East since All-Star? The Raptors. And that's with Kyle Lowry missing significant time with a wrist injury. The Raptors are now healthy, their midseason acquisitions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker have paid huge dividends, and last year's conference finals appearance may have shaken off their postseason nerves.

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
2. San Antonio Spurs (2)

Record: 61-21

First-Round Opponent: Memphis Grizzlies

One thing to know: The Spurs are the Spurs. They won 50-plus games for the 18th season in a row, despite a weaker overall cast, thanks to Kawhi Leonard's MVP-worthy season and Gregg Popovich's brilliance. They also have an easier bracket, as they won't see the Warriors or Clippers (who they struggle against) until a potential conference finals matchup.

(Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
1. Golden State Warriors (1)

Record: 67-15

First-Round Opponent: Portland Trail Blazers

One thing to know: Surprise! The league's best team has also had the best record over the last month, going 15-1 since March 13. Kevin Durant is healthy again, Stephen Curry is hot, and there's probably not a team in their conference who scares them. Simply put, with all of the Warriors talent, it takes a wild imagination to think any team could beat them four times in seven games.

(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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So, how much does Leonard mean to the Spurs? The Warriors outscored the Spurs 58-33 after Leonard left the game. In 24 minutes, Leonard had 24 points, six rebounds, and three assists and was a +22.

Of course, any team would miss their best player — Leonard is a top-five player in the NBA and an MVP candidate. But he's particularly important for these Spurs. He controls most of the offense, and he essentially puts out fires for the Spurs on both ends of the floor. Need a bucket? Leonard will get it.

Leonard has also become an improved playmaker over the years.

And Leonard's best skill — his ability to switch onto any opponent and wreak havoc on the defensive end. In fact, Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, is such a menace on the defensive end that the Warriors schemed around him entirely. In Leonard's 24 minutes, he didn't defend a single shot, according to the NBA's Stats site tracker. The Warriors simply avoided him by going wherever Leonard wasn't.

The Warriors are so talented and tough to match up with that the Spurs may have been in trouble, anyway. Leonard or no Leonard, it's tough to imagine a scenario where the Spurs could beat these Warriors four times in seven games. That's part of what makes the Spurs' Game 1 collapse so heart-wrenching — steal Game 1 on the road and they may have a shot.

None of that matters without Leonard. If Leonard misses even one game, the Spurs are likely looking at the end of their season.

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