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SportsBruce Arthur: Kawhi vs. Giannis is the series for Raptors and Bucks

10:55  21 may  2019
10:55  21 may  2019 Source:   thestar.com

In a dark time, Kawhi Leonard is the hero we need

In a dark time, Kawhi Leonard is the hero we need We needed that. In the year of no spring, at a time when our leaders seem to be giving up on the future itself, in the grey days after yet another Maple Leafs let-down, we needed a hero. Kawhi Leonard is that hero. We’ll be replaying The Shot for years to come, savouring every bounce of the buzzer-beater to beat all buzzer-beaters. Thousands of words have been spilled describing it, with thousands more to follow. For us, we’ll just endorse the reaction of the great LeBron James: “!! !! !! !! !! !! !!” Now, our expert colleagues in the sports department tell us, it gets harder. Maybe too hard for these Raptors.

If Giannis Antetokoumpo is muffled, the Bucks can be beaten, and the Raptors ’ Kawhi Leonard has proven he’s the man for the job — health permitting, Bruce Arthur writes. On those possessions, the Bucks scored a mere 35 points. At 99-96, Giannis drove and Kawhi pinned the ball as he gathered it

Whew. Now that the good people of Toronto have had a second to breathe after Kawhi Leonard beat the buzzer and the 76ers on Sunday night — much to the chagrin of the already cantankerous fans in Philadelphia — it’s time to look ahead to what is sure to be another heavyweight series .

Bruce Arthur: Kawhi vs. Giannis is the series for Raptors and Bucks© Gregory Shamus Kawhi Leonard’s defensive metrics when guarding Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo have been astounding. In Game 3, Giannis was held to 12 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a completely different sort of human, is what he is. The very best NBA players are almost always in that category. Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the agile colossuses with soft hands. Michael Jordan, LeBron James: there was only one of each. Steph Curry might be the most relatively normal superlative player ever, and he’s an incredible athlete. Him and the other greatest shooter in history, Steve Nash.

Bruce Arthur: Raptors must share the load to have a shot against Bucks

Bruce Arthur: Raptors must share the load to have a shot against Bucks The shot changed everything, right? It changed everything. Kawhi Leonard hit The Shot and the Toronto Raptors won Game 7 and it felt to Raptors fans like the world was reborn anew. It was emotional. But as the Raptors open the Eastern Conference final against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, the same fundamental questions have to be answered. Technically, Toronto is halfway to a title: eight wins down, eight to go. But the Raptors are only about halfway to determining their proper identity, too. See: Kawhi. “We really lean on him a lot,” said Raptors centre Marc Gasol, whose offensive reticence was an issue in the 76ers series.

Toronto Raptors Defense Highlights vs Giannis and Bucks . Kawhi Leonard Full Series Highlights vs 76ers | 2019 NBA Playoffs ECSF - Продолжительность: 14:45 House of Highlights 135 093 просмотра.

Nick Wright and Cris Carter look ahead to Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks Game 5. Nick explains how the Kawhi Leonard - Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup is

But Giannis feels like an evolutionary step, seven feet tall with endless arms and hands like dinner plates and agility and strength and a sense of how to play the game. He’s from this planet. It’s a real credit to the planet, really.

Enter Kawhi Leonard. He is a slightly more regular human, relatively. But he might be the best Giannis defender there is.

“You’re going to try to attack, but you’re not going to attack as much as you would if you see another guy on you,” said Raptors guard Danny Green. “Kawhi deters a lot of people.”

Leonard barely saw Giannis in the three regular-season games in which they both played. Pascal Siakam, who could be a future all-defence player, got three times as many possessions in which he was deemed to be the primary defender. In those 93 possessions against Siakam, Giannis scored 41 points. He took more shots than his usual rate. Siakam did fine, more or less.

Bucks rally to take Game 1 from Raptors

Bucks rally to take Game 1 from Raptors Brook Lopez scored 13 of his career playoff-high 29 points in the fourth quarter and Milwaukee closed the game on a 10-0 run to beat the Toronto.

Bruce Arthur : Blown chance might haunt Raptors after Game 1 loss to Bucks . MILWAUKEE—Against Philadelphia, sometimes the Toronto Raptors offence looked scared. Maybe scared is the wrong word: spooked, squirrelly, vexed. The 76ers were huge. Joel Embiid was terrifying. The series concluded in

Kawhi Leonard caps furious Raptors run with an epic dunk on Giannis : In a dark time, Kawhi Leonard is the hero we need We needed that . Stephen A. Smith REACTS TO Kawhi Leonard , Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2 - Продолжительность: 18:05 Charles Barkley 345.

In 31 regular-season possessions against Kawhi, Giannis scored four points. He took three shots, and had three assists. Milwaukee’s offensive rating plummeted. It wasn’t that he tried to attack Kawhi and failed. It was that the alien superman barely tried to attack Kawhi at all.

So in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final, with the Toronto Raptors staring down an 0-2 series deficit, coach Nick Nurse stuck Kawhi on Giannis. Nobody guards one player exclusively anymore — there are too many pick-and-rolls, too many switches, too many chances to run in transition — but Kawhi was the primary defender.

Kawhi was a monster, first-quarter limp and all. He was deemed to have guarded Giannis for a team-high 41 possessions, during which Giannis scored four points on 2-of-12 shooting with two turnovers and one assist. On those possessions, the Bucks scored a mere 35 points. At 99-96, Giannis drove and Kawhi pinned the ball as he gathered it, and forced a jump ball that Toronto won. There is a sense in the Raptors organization that the all-galaxy alien is, against Kawhi, a little tentative. Not scared, but deterred. The numbers largely bear it out.

Bruce Arthur: Blown chance might haunt Raptors after Game 1 loss to Bucks

Bruce Arthur: Blown chance might haunt Raptors after Game 1 loss to Bucks MILWAUKEE—Against Philadelphia, sometimes the Toronto Raptors offence looked scared. Maybe scared is the wrong word: spooked, squirrelly, vexed. The 76ers were huge. Joel Embiid was terrifying. The series concluded in Game 7 with Kawhi Leonard all but shouldering the whole thing. Then Toronto escaped, and it was a new chance, and for a while it looked like they were free. They defended the galactic Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as you can. They held the other Bucks back from three. And for a while, they absorbed every Milwaukee run, and pushed back. Kyle Lowry, it seemed, couldn’t miss. And they still couldn’t grab this chance, and it may come back to haunt them.

The Raptors - Bucks series was billed as Kawhi Leonard against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kawhi and the Raptors are winning at the moment, with The series was considered to be Giannis vs . Kawhi from the opening tip, but Leonard has taken over the series and dominated on a level that the Open

After the Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard last summer, the only thing Giannis was averaging 38 minutes in the Raptors series entering Game 6, which is five more than he averaged during Giannis is the first player on the call sheet for that role. If anyone on the roster should be able to will the team

“He’s a two-time defensive player of the year for a reason,” said Green. “Everybody knows that; it’s not a secret. He’s very good with his hands, he’s very good at stealing the ball, and guys have to protect that. So knowing that, you’re more reluctant, no matter how good a scorer you are, to attack certain ways. You have to be more careful in how you attack.

“I just think it’s natural for anybody in basketball, even the greatest players, to see a great defender and be a little more picky in how you attack. Because you can’t just attack the way they want to. He’s so crafty with his hands; you can’t be comfortable around a guy like that.”

It wasn’t just that Kawhi set Giannis on a hesitant path — the Greek Freak didn’t shoot at all in 17 possessions against Siakam, and Marc Gasol stripped him of the ball more than once, and the Raptors sent traps and doubles — but the Toronto superstar also played team defence, helping and then recovering for steals. It was like he could be in two places at once.

And as a result, at times Toronto didn’t have to help quite as much on Milwaukee’s shooters, and the potential MVP finished with 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, plus eight turnovers. He only went 5-of-12 in the paint. Kawhi is a bull with safecracker’s hands, and his balance and footwork are near-impeccable. If Giannis is muffled, the Bucks can be beaten.

Bruce Arthur: Raptors need a better way to manage the load in Game 2

Bruce Arthur: Raptors need a better way to manage the load in Game 2 MILWAUKEE—It was just one game, but of course nothing is just one game. To get to where the Toronto Raptors are, most of the mountain has to have been climbed already. You can reduce the seven-month burden with load management, as the phrase goes. You can stop practising. The Raptors still practise once in a while, sure. But they may not again. This is partly because Toronto is loading minutes on their main players like minutes are an all-you-can-carry shopping spree. And they are doing this because, well, somebody’s got to play.

The Bucks move one step closer to an NBA Finals appearance after earning a wire-to-wire victory over the Raptors to take a 2-0 series lead. The Bucks ' Depth Overwhelms Raptors in Game 2 Rout. The Bucks had six different players score in double figures in Game 2, led by a 30-point, 17-rebound

Kawhi ’s success stood in contrast to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who hasn’t looked like himself in this series . Toronto stuck Kawhi on Antetokounmpo starting in Game 3, and it’s led to some serious struggles for the MVP favorite. Giannis is clearly having issues being effective in the frontcourt, and

“That’s why we had him on Giannis from the jump, and he wanted that assignment,” said Green.

And as the Raptors face another effectively do-or-die matchup in Game 4, Kawhi limiting Giannis is a centrepiece to Toronto’s hopes. Giannis figured out Al Horford in the second round. Kawhi may be a different challenge.

“You got Kawhi, probably the best two-way … basketball player in the NBA and you can kinda take a little bit of help off Giannis, and let Kawhi play one-on-one, but just give him different looks, different bodies,” said point guard Kyle Lowry. “Think four or five guys guarded him last night. Just give him different looks and different bodies and different areas, situations, try to make him as uncomfortable and (be as) unpredictable as we can possibly be.”

Kawhi Leonard once turned a younger LeBron James inside out in a playoff series, and LeBron had more ways to score than Giannis does. Toronto’s half-court defence in this series has been superb; it will have to remain so, to have a chance. Giannis told Milwaukee reporters he would have to attack Kawhi, if only to sap his energy for the other end of the court. Kawhi’s health, after all that limping, remains a closely guarded secret.

But Kawhi doesn’t seem to fear anything in basketball. Let the biggest deer come.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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