Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is counting on Kawhi Leonard to be the stabilizing factor for their team when they play the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
The Clippers have blown double-digit leads in back-to-back games against the Nuggets, and their once-commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series has evaporated. The match-up is going down-the-wire in a deciding Game 7, with the winner advancing to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.
Their collapses in Game 5 and 6 have been a major cause of concern for Rivers, but he remains optimistic that the Clippers will get their act together in Game 7.
Crucial to their game plan is Leonard, the two-time Finals Most Valuable Player who signed with Los Angeles in the offseason after leading the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title.
"Oh, he's unshakable," Rivers said of the 28-year-old Leonard.
"Kawhi, you can't guarantee he'll play well or not because he's human and all players are," he added.
"But you know, the moment won't be too big. That's the one thing like with him, you just know that. You know, so that's comforting to know that," he added.
Leonard is averaging 29.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for the Clippers in the playoffs.
He is a proven performer in Game 7, memorably sinking a buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers last season to lift the Raptors to the Eastern Conference finals.
As for his other key guys, Rivers is banking on Patrick Beverley and Paul George to stay out of foul trouble. Beverley fouled out after just 18 minutes in Game 6, while George was a team-worst minus-23 despite scoring 33 points in the contest.
"When you think about like last night as an example, we have a chance to go up big, but Pat and PG are in foul trouble, and it limits rotations, it limits what you can do," said Rivers.
"That's the unplanned stuff that actually happens in games that you can't control. You can control not doing it, hopefully, as a player on the floor, but when it happens, it definitely throws the rotations that you had set for the game out of the window," he added.
Rivers noted that George has been in foul trouble for at least three games in the series, which severely limits his ability to impact the game on the defensive end.
"We've just got to keep him on the floor," he said of George. "The foul trouble by our guards, they have been very hurtful in this series, and not just the last two games. We've got to keep our guards on the floor, because if we don't, we've got to go to lineups defensively that are not desirable."
Game 7 is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Manila time.