LeBron James-Kawhi Leonard Rivalry Evolving into Battle of Equals

January 29th, 2016 by Zach Buckley Leave a reply »

Say you're a hoops-crazed mad scientist, and say you want to engineer the best possible answer to LeBron James.

You can imagine the attributes: length, world-class athleticism, a turbo-charged motor and a genius-level basketball IQ.

Add in some throwback cornrows and an expressionless stare, and guess what you'd have—soaring superstar Kawhi Leonard, James' nemesis in Saturday's prime-time tilt between the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs.

Initially, this matchup appeared like a gifted Goliath squaring off against a determined but less equipped David. And it's played out that way at times.

James dominated the first two matchups of the 2014 NBA Finals, averaging 30 points on 59.0 percent shooting and 8.0 rebounds to Leonard's 9.0 points on 42.9 percent shooting and 2.0 boards. In the last two contests of the 2013 Finals, James had a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double and a 37-point explosion on 52.2 percent shooting (5-of-10 from deep) in the clincher.

But this is a different Leonard. He's burst through his offensive cocoon this season, simultaneously emerging as both a No. 1 ...

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