The LA Clippers' road to the Western Conference Finals took a turn following their 111-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 6.
With the well-rested Los Angeles Lakers awaiting the winner, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers must now tackle a Game 7 after previously leading the series 3-1.
"Just got to leave it all out on the floor and make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end," Leonard said post-game. "That's all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan."
The Clippers will need Leonard at his best against the plucky Nuggets squad, who have proven they can never be written off after coming back from 3-1 down for the second straight series this postseason.
Through the 2019-20 postseason, Leonard has been nothing short of dominant, averaging 29.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game on 50.8% shooting from the field and 33.3% from the 3-point line.
Leonard is no stranger to Game 7s, holding a 2-2 record in winner-take-all games through his career - none bigger than his masterpiece for the Raptors last season, which saw him hit the shot at the buzzer to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Can he deliver the same heroics for his new squad?
With that in mind, let's take a look back at how he has performed in Game 7s, ahead of one of the biggest games of his career.
2019: Game 7 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, Eastern Conference semi-finals
Result: Win - Raptors 92, 76ers 90
Stats: 41 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 16-of-39 FG, 2-of-9 3PT
Perhaps the defining game of Leonard's career, he willed the Raptors to victory, burying the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history and just the second shot in NBA history to end the series in a do-or-die game.
Those four bounces etched Leonard in Toronto sports history as they went on to win the NBA title last season, with Leonard named Finals MVP.
Who knows if any of that happens without Leonard's game-winner in the second round.
This was his first Game 7 as a franchise player, giving us the best indication of what we might expect from him, given the other three Game 7s came while he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs, alongside Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker.
2015: Game 7 vs. LA Clippers, Western Conference First Round
Result: Loss - Clippers 111, Spurs 109
Stats: 13 points, 10 rebounds, 5-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3PT
The defending champion Spurs fell in the first round of the NBA playoffs in 2015, thanks to Chris Paul's floater with one second remaining.
Leonard, then 23-years-old, struggled to put his imprint on the game as he battled foul trouble all night, playing 33 minutes in Game 7.
His only score of the fourth quarter came down the stretch on a layup with 2:47 remaining to put the Spurs up 105-102, before Matt Barnes answered immediately with a 3-pointer for the Clippers.
He finished 1-of-7 in the fourth quarter as the Spurs became the first defending champion to go out in the first round since the 2007 Miami Heat.
2014: Game 7 vs. Dallas Mavericks, Western Conference First round
Result: Win - Spurs 119, Mavericks 96
Stats: 15 points, 6 rebounds, 7-of-14 FG, 1-of-5 3PT
The Spurs cruised to victory against the Mavs to advance to the second round, behind 32 points from Tony Parker, with Leonard chipping in 15 points on the night.
San Antonio was barely threatened in this game as they led by as many as 31 points, with Leonard playing 29 minutes, knocking down open shots and putting the clamps on the Mavericks' wings - Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, and Jae Crowder.
The Spurs would go on to beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, with Leonard winning his first Finals MVP.
2013: Game 7 vs. Miami Heat, NBA Finals
Result: Loss - Heat 95, Spurs 88
Stats: 19 points, 16 rebounds on 8-of-17, 1-of-4 3PT
Leonard's first Game 7 of his career came in just his second season and on the biggest stage, with the Larry O'Brien trophy on the line
After Ray Allen's heroics in Game 6, the Heat seized the opportunity, behind 37 points and 12 rebounds from LeBron James in Game 7 as they made it back-to-back titles.
Salute 💯 pic.twitter.com/hqeRQ4nYDr- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 9, 2019
A 21-year-old Leonard acquitted himself well in Game 7, with his primary job guarding James on one end, while he recorded 19 points at the other, earning pleny of praise from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich despite the result.
"I just talked to Kawhi and told him he was absolutely amazing," Popovich said after Game 7.
"Nobody expected him at this young age to play the way he has through the whole playoffs. He really is a star in the making. He's just beginning to feel what he has. He's like a little baby learning how to walk, as far as NBA basketball is concerned. He (could be) a senior in college this year, and he's come so far, and a lot of that credit goes to [Spurs assistant coaches] Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier what they've done in developing him."
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