Playoffs - West Series 7

Report: Kawhi Leonard will return for Game 1 of Western Conference finals Staff

San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard will play Sunday against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, ESPN reported late Thursday night:

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to face the Golden State Warriors on Sunday in the opener of the Western Conference finals, a source told ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.

Leonard, who injured his left ankle Tuesday, could have played in Thursday night’s semifinals-clinching 114-75 win over the Houston Rockets if needed, but the Spurs decided they’d rather have him healthy for Sunday, the source said.

Leonard received treatment on his ankle throughout the day Thursday and spent the game in the Spurs’ locker room and not on the bench. Coach Gregg Popovich announced before the game that Leonard wouldn’t play, adding that it wasn’t Leonard’s decision to sit.

By sitting out, Leonard, who is averaging 27.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting during the playoffs, now has more time to heal before the Western Conference finals. Before Thursday, the Rockets had been 17-5 at home when facing elimination over the past 25 postseasons, the best record in the NBA in that span.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Spurs are now 5-0 in games without Leonard and Parker this season.

Leonard missed Thursday’s series-clinching rout of the Rockets with a sprained ankle.

The Spurs eliminated that possibility with their 39-point conquest of the Rockets in Game 6 and will next face the heavily-favored Warriors (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Leonard was injured in the third quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday, an overtime Spurs victory in which he sat out much of the fourth and all of the extra period. He is averaging 27.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals in the playoffs.