Through the first five games of the NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has received praise mostly for his defensive work on Miami Heat MVP LeBron James. Yet Leonard has also been very impressive at the offensive end, where he's chipped in four double-figures scoring games and added another option to the Spurs' balanced attack.
Leonard has also had his fair share of athletic highlights. In the first quarter of Tuesday night's Game 6, he had perhaps his best of the playoffs. After a stellar outlet pass from Tim Duncan to Tony Parker, Leonard took the ball on the fast break and exploded over Mike Miller at the rim. Miller did his best to challenge the dunk, but Kawhi has a clear athletic edge in that matchup and took full advantage. The resulting posterization is available for your viewing pleasure above.
Join us after the jump for a GIF of the play, along with some thoughts on a potential offensive foul by Leonard and some words of encouragement from one of Leonard's previous postseason victims.
As you can see from this screengrab (via @badlhoch), Barnes put his hand over Miller's face while completing the jam. The ESPN on ABC broadcasting crew — including retired official Steve Javie — agreed that the referees on the floor were right not to blow the whistle on Leonard, although Heat fans can be forgiven for thinking the rule book does not allow players to push opponents in the face at any point during a game. On the other hand, this call is pretty much never made on dunks, so it is not terribly surprising that the basket stood.
Miller will have to contend with the fallout, most of which will be limited to internet jokes and rumblings. The good news for him is that other players have been in the same position during this postseason. During the Spurs' Western Conference Semifinals series against the Golden State Warriors, Leonard had a similar posterization on rookie Harrison Barnes. Right after the dunk on Miller, Barnes had some words of encouragement:
Happens to the best of us Mike
— Harrison Barnes (@HBarnes) June 19, 2013
Chin up, Miller. Every player gets a chance to reclaim his good name.