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SportOpinion: Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors' season in double-overtime Game 3 win over Bucks

19:15  20 may  2019
19:15  20 may  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7

Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7 Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7

Opinion : Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors ' season in double - overtime Game 3 win over Bucks . TORONTO — Nearly 90 minutes after temporarily saving Toronto’s season , All-Star Kawhi Leonard emerged from the trainer’s room, exhausted but finally victorious after a game against Milwaukee in

Toronto Raptors get double - overtime Game 3 NBA playoff win over Milwaukee Bucks . Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Published 10:17 p.m. ET May 19, 2019 Leonard scored 19 of his game -high 36 points in the fourth quarter and overtimes as the Raptors defeated the Bucks 118-112 in double - overtime .

Opinion: Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors' season in double-overtime Game 3 win over Bucks© Gregory Shamus, Getty Images Kawhi Leonard shoots the ball during overtime against the Bucks.

TORONTO — Nearly 90 minutes after temporarily saving Toronto’s season, All-Star Kawhi Leonard emerged from the trainer’s room, exhausted but finally victorious after a game against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals.

Earlier Sunday evening, Leonard played a career-high 52 minutes with the toughest of playoff assignments: defend Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on one end of the court and provide enough offense on the other end so that his team had a chance — just a chance, no guarantees — to beat Milwaukee.

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Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors - Full Game 3 Highlights | May 19, 2019 NBA Playoffs. Следующее. Shaq & Barkley DEBATE Warriors at Trail Blazers; GSW and Curry Final win Game 4? NBA GameTime crew reacts to Kawhi Leonard 36 Pts, Raptors defeat Bucks 118-112 20T in

Kawhi Leonard was Batman to the Raptors ' Robin, with a game -high 36 points in a career-high 52 minutes in Game 3 . TORONTO – With 3 :21 left in the second overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, it felt like an entire franchise's hopes and dreams hung in the balance.

BOX SCORE: RAPTORS 118, BUCKS 112 (2OT)

“It’s playoff basketball,” Leonard said. “I want to win. ... We’re still here. Nobody wants to go home. We’re going to keep striving to reach that goal. That’s what I pride myself on, both ends of the floor.”

Right now, there might not be another player in the NBA capable of handling that assignment. He shot, clawed, limped, scored, dunked and defended his way to another memorable performance with 36 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in Toronto’s 118-112 double overtime victory in Game 3 on Sunday.

It helped Toronto avoid what has been an insurmountable 3-0 deficit in NBA playoff history.

Kawhi Leonard saved the Raptors’ season for the second Sunday in a row

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After over three hours of action, the Toronto Raptors escaped with a 118-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in double overtime . While it's true that the Raptors received some nice performances from their supporting cast, it was Kawhi Leonard -- and nobody else -- that willed them

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On Saturday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse told the team Leonard would take more of the defensive responsibility on Antetokounmpo, who barreled his way through Toronto’s defense in Game 2.

Toronto had to make the game more difficult for Antetokounmpo. And Leonard did, with help from his teammates.

“It's a team deal with (Antetokounmpo), right,” Nurse said. “But again, Kawhi did a great job. You guys watched the game. He was up and not giving him quite as much runway to get flying off of.”

Antetokounmpo finished with 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting, 23 rebounds, seven assists and eight turnovers. It was his lowest-scoring game of this season’s playoffs.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to not focus on who’s guarding me and just keep making plays,” Antetokounmpo said.

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It took 58 minutes of game time , but the Raptors have their first win of the Eastern Conference More than once, it seemed like the Raptors would let Game 3 slip away. After managing just 38 points in Brogdon added a reverse layup over Kawhi Leonard with under 40 seconds left to cut Toronto’s lead

The Toronto Raptors defeated the visiting Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in double - overtime Sunday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) controls a ball as Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) defends during the first quarter in

Since Game 6 of the Easter Conference semifinals against Philadelphia, Leonard hasn’t been at his best offensively, at least efficiency-wise, shooting 43.5 percent in his past four games.

But when the Raptors have absolutely needed him — in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against Philadelphia and in the fourth quarter and overtimes of Game 3 against Milwaukee — he delivered.

Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes, including eight points in the second overtime. He had a dunk to give Toronto a 108-105 lead, then a steal and dunk to extend Toronto’s advantage to 112-109 and then a driving bank shot to make it 114-110. Two more free throws accounted for the final two points of the game.

It was his 10th game with at least 30 points in his team’s first 15 playoff games, tying him for third with such games in the past 20 seasons, trailing only Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron James.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri gambled when he traded for Leonard last summer. In 2017-18, Leonard played just nine games and wanted out of San Antonio. Ujiri took a chance on a player who will become a free agent this summer in hopes that he and the Raptors can convince Leonard to re-sign.

Raptors roll as Kawhi Leonard limps through Game 4 win over Bucks

Raptors roll as Kawhi Leonard limps through Game 4 win over Bucks Raptors roll as Kawhi Leonard limps through Game 4 win over Bucks

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard drives to the basket against the Bucks ' Brook Lopez (left) and Malcolm Brogdon during overtime of Game 3 on Sunday night Fortunately for Siakam and the rest of the Raptors , Kawhi Leonard didn’t seem too tired. Leonard scored 36 points, including eight in the

Raptors ’ Kawhi Leonard on playing through leg injury vs. Bucks : 'This is playoff basketball'. NBA playoffs 2019: 3 takeaways from Raptors ' key Game 3 win over Bucks . Leonard , however, remained in the game and led his team to a 118-112 win in double overtime .

They accommodated Leonard this season, sitting him out in back-to-backs and playing him in just 60 of 82 games with the belief that he would be healthy and rested for the playoffs. And for games like this.

“We started with a plan that we thought was really sensible because he hadn't played in like a year or something like that or played very little in the whole season beforehand,” Nurse said. “So we trimmed his minutes. We trimmed his games. We left him out of back-to-backs.

"You guys have heard his famous line that he said: these first 82 games are just practice. I thought we were going to see another gear out of this guy, and I think the load management and all that kind of stuff helped. And we'll see.”

After the game, Leonard said he’s "enjoying my time” and "just putting it all together" and "remembering where I was last year. Pretty much just enjoying the moment."

Now, Leonard might not be 100 percent. After a layup in the first quarter, he favored his left leg and looked like he was in pain other times.

“I’m good,” He said. “I’m just going to keep fighting. ... Fifty-two minutes and it’s the playoffs. You definitely feel. When you play 30 minutes, you feel it. Just got to not worry about it and get my treatment and move on to the next one.”

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam had a chance to extend Toronto’s lead to 98-94 with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, but he missed two free throws, leading to Khris Middleton’s overtime-forcing putback.

Opinion: Raptors show in Game 4 that they can win without a fully functional Kawhi Leonard

Opinion: Raptors show in Game 4 that they can win without a fully functional Kawhi Leonard The Toronto Raptors showed in Eastern Conference finals Game 4 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks that they can win when Kawhi Leonard isn't at his best.

Kawhi scores 36 as Raptors outlast Bucks in double overtime . Must See: Kawhi digs deep, takes over in double -OT to carry Raptors to win . Leonard did display a dry sense of humour when asked about Pascal Siakam's two free throw misses with seven seconds left in regulation time and the

Kawhi Leonard Drops 36 as Raptors Survive Double OT to Beat Bucks in Game 3 . Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, including eight in the second overtime , to give the Raptors a Game 3 win over the Toronto won despite guards Kyle Lowry and Powell both fouling out in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Leonard told Siakam, “I damn near played an hour tonight. He was like ‘My bad ’Whi. I’ll make the free throws next time.”

The missed free throws though provided another memorable playoff performance by Leonard and another example of why he's still a top-five player.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors' season in double-overtime Game 3 win over Bucks

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Opinion: Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors' season in double-overtime Game 3 win over Bucks
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Kawhi Leonard free agency rumors: Star may accept short-term deal from Raptors.
Leonard can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after this season's over. Per TrueHoop: "Of course, he's about to become a free agent. And because of that, as the media you might expect to hear sunny things about Kawhi's return from Raptors sources eager to tamp down the impression Kawhi is bound for the Clippers or another team. "But even before the Finals began, we at TrueHoop heard from plugged-in sources associated with players and the league — but not the team — that Kawhi would return to Toronto, at least on a short-term deal.

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