Jonathon Simmons was the ‘Kawhi Leonard’ the Spurs needed against James Harden on Game 5
One of the first names to make any noise to tip-off the season, Jonathon Simmons, an undrafted 27-year-old from Houston, was lighting up the Golden State Warriors for 20 points off the bench in the San Antonio Spurs’ opening day victory at the start of the regular season.
The peaks and valleys of the 2016-17 campaign didn’t completely leave him out of the rotation, mustering a respectable 17.8 minutes per game in 78 games this season, even garnering eight starts for a veteran squad.
Simmons heard his name chanted just as loud in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets, this time making his name at the defensive end and putting the clamps on James Harden when the team needed it the most.
The 6-foot-6 forward limited The Beard to four points on 1-of-6 shooting (including 0-of-5 from deep), one assist, and was responsible for all of Harden’s four turnovers in the game as the primary defender, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
His size, length, and athleticism resembled the effort and tenacity the Spurs have gotten all season long from their star two-way player Kawhi Leonard, making his 32-minute stint on the court, all the more precious for head coach Gregg Popovich.
Simmons was an ineffective 5-of-14 from the field throughout the game, but made two clutch free throws in overtime to give San Antonio the lead and nabbed two steals from Harden to make his night a living nightmare.
His performance was just what most have come to expect with the Spurs organization and its “next man up” mentality, not trembling upon Leonard’s injury and instead giving an opportunity to a player who’s gone through his share of battles to be at this stage.