Golden State entertains San Antonio in Sunday's best-of-7 Western Conference final opener while the LeBron James-led Cavaliers await Monday's game-seven victor between Boston and Washington in an Eastern Conference final that begins Wednesday in Cleveland.
Leonard, one of the leading candidates to win MVP, participated during Saturday's practice session, according to coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich is being his typically dry, humorous self, but there's some truth in what he's saying.
The Warriors beat Cleveland for the 2015 crown and were one win shy of capping a repeat title run previous year after a record 73-win campaign only to have James spark the Cavaliers from a 3-1 deficit to the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, taking the trophy in seven games.
Defending champion Cleveland and powerhouse Golden State enter Sunday's start of the playoff semi-finals pushing toward an unprecedented third consecutive NBA Finals showdown, adding more sparks to an already historic rivalry. I think the Spurs will give the Warriors more issues in this series than any team in the East would.
But even though Popovich can scheme for any opposing team, he has a simple strategy for stopping Golden State. "Somebody actually asked me when we opened the Houston series what I would take from the '95 series [against the Rockets], if you guys remember that", the five-time National Basketball Association champion said, via San Antonio Express-News. Anything can happen in a playoff series. It's only right that they're going at it for the conference title and this series is going to be EPIC!
The Spurs are without French star guard Tony Parker, out for the remainder of the playoffs with a torn left quadriceps.
It was as good an opening as the Spurs could ask for offensively.
"We are playing one of the best teams like nearly ever, last year (73) wins, made it to the Finals, this year (67) whatever", Ginobili said.
The Warriors in the regular season lost two of three to San Antonio. According to ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright, he will likely return for the Golden State opener. A Rocket win tonight takes the two to an "all or nothing, victor take all" seventh game Sunday back in San Antonio.
The season series ended with an 110-98 Warriors victory March 29 at the AT&T Center. Kawhi Leonard is averaging 27.8 points and 4.7 assists while LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. Both are close friends of the San Antonio coach.