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

18:17  22 may  2019
18:17  22 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

Kawhi Anthony Leonard (/kəˈwaɪ/, born June 29, 1991) is an American professional basketball player for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Opinion : Kawhi Leonard saves Raptors ' season in double-overtime Game 3 win over Bucks. TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard ’s minutes were a topic all season. How many per game would he On Saturday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse told the team Leonard would take more of the defensive

TORONTO — The NBA’s daily injury reported listed zilch about Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard.

Not the 1:30 p.m. report, not the 5:30 p.m. report and not the 8:30 p.m. report.

But Leonard is not 100%. That’s visible when he favors one leg. No one is saying what is causing the discomfort. As they like to say in the NHL, let’s just call it a lower-body injury.

BOX SCORE: RAPTORS 120, BUCKS 102

In a game where Leonard wasn’t at his best because of pain and after playing a career-high 52 minutes the previous game, the Raptors thrived and evened the Eastern Conference finals with a 120-102 victory against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Raptors outlast Bucks in 2OT for Game 3 win

Raptors outlast Bucks in 2OT for Game 3 win Raptors outlast Bucks in 2OT for Game 3 win

In the blockbuster trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected first-round pick, we all sort of Instead, it’s devastating, with implications that run far deeper than anyone’s near-term ability to win basketball games . Take Leonard himself.

Kawhi Leonard tweaked his left leg early in Game 3, and proceeded to play 52 minutes while defending Antetokounmpo and carrying Toronto's offense. Ibaka is doing nothing, so Lopez ignores him to overload against Leonard . The Bucks are really good at tilting the floor without revealing any

That’s not to say Leonard didn’t perform. He did with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Even if his offensive isn’t on, he will deliver defensively, especially guarding Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. And Toronto doesn’t win without his elite two-way production.

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Toronto’s Kyle Lowry stepped up with at team-high 25 points, and Marc Gasol had another strong two-way performance with 17 points, seven assists, two blocks and a steal. And Toronto’s bench outscored Milwaukee’s 48-23 with Norman Powell scoring 18 points, Serge Ibaka collecting 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet contributing 13 points.

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

For two games Kawhi Leonard has dragged around his right leg like there was a nail hammered into it. The Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday and Leonard has fully repaired his He added 17 points in Game 4 , handing out seven assists and anchoring the Raptors defense.

When Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse announced pregame on Sunday that Kawhi Another fan who flew in from Toronto for the game explicitly wanted to show Leonard his support by But when Leonard sits, the Raptors are still in capable hands. Toronto is now 2-1 in games that Kawhi

“We rely on (Leonard) a lot,” Lowry said. “He definitely does a lot for us. But we have a game like this where everyone steps up, it’s a lot of easing the pressure off him doing something offensively for us.”

An interesting thing happened this season as the Raptors managed his minutes and sat him in 22 of 82 games. Toronto won without him, going 17-5 in the games he didn’t play, including wins against multiple playoff teams. The Raptors had a better winning percentage without Leonard.

He played 34 minutes, and the Raptors outscored Milwaukee 29-27 in Leonard's 14 minutes on the bench.

"It's probably one of the biggest pluses we've seen here in the last couple games is that we are functioning very well in the minutes Kawhi is not out there," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

Leonard made just one of his five shot attempts in the first half, and the Raptors still led 65-55. He had 14 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter when the Raptors began to pull away.

Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great'

Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great' Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great'

The Toronto Raptors are currently playing better without Kawhi Leonard . That that statement is even possibly true is one of the great early mysteries of the So there you have it: the Raptors look more cohesive in games Leonard sits, because they look more like last year’s team. Lowry sets the tone

Kawhi Leonard continues to put on a show in the postseason. After a slow start, Leonard currently has 11 points despite only connecting on three of his nine shots. Entering Game 4 , the versatile forward was averaging 32.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting 46.0 percent from the field.

“This is one of the nights that we knew Kawhi was a little bit limited,” Lowry said. “We had to come out and be aggressive for him. The great thing about having him on your team is he still gets all the attention. We fed off of that — drive, kick, swing. He gets in the lane, kick out. That's the benefit of having a superstar like him on the team.”

Leonard has been perhaps the best player of this postseason, averaging 31.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals and shooting 51.8% from the field and 39.1 percent on three-pointers. When Leonard is on the court, the Raptors score 111.5 points and allow 101.1 points per 100 possessions for impressive plus-10.4 net rating.

He has scored at least 30 points in 10 of Toronto’s 16 playoff games.

“We stepped up for him,” Lowry said. “He’s given us a lot through these playoffs.”

Leonard maintains he feels good. He wouldn’t blame it on his heavy workload in Game 3.

“Keep going and keep fighting, and we have a chance to make history,” he said. “I mean, it’s no excuses. We’re playing basketball, and we got a win tonight.”

Lowry said they knew Leonard would be limited. Nurse said Leonard is tired, but “he looks OK to me. I think there’s a number of guys out there that aren’t 100 percent on both sides of the ball. But again, he’s got tremendous will."

Doc Rivers: Kawhi Leonard is the 'Most Like Jordan That We've Seen'

Doc Rivers: Kawhi Leonard is the 'Most Like Jordan That We've Seen' Clippers head coach Doc Rivers heaped some serious praise on Kawhi Leonard during an appearance on ESPN on Tuesday by saying the Raptors forward is "the most like Jordan that we've seen." "[Leonard] is the most like Jordan that we've seen," Rivers said. "There's a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal, KD is phenomenal. Not that [Leonard] is Jordan or anything like that, but he's the most like him. Big hands, post game, can finish. Great leaper, great defender, in-between game. If you beat him to the spot he bumps you off, and then you add his three-point shooting.

The Raptors and Spurs finalized a deal Wednesday morning to trade the four -time NBA all-star for Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard . The Toronto Raptors are sending DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard .

The Toronto Raptors are better without Kawhi Leonard — their record says as much. Over a four - game West Coast trip, Toronto went 2-2 against But watch Leonard operate within Toronto's system and something seems off. A staple of the non- Leonard wins has been an abundance of

Ibaka didn’t even realize something might be amiss with Leonard.

“You know, Kawhi plays at his own pace, and sometimes, it’s hard to know,” Ibaka said. “But at some point, I felt maybe he’s going a little too much. So I ask somebody on the bench, and when I heard that, I thought, 'Oh, wow.'"

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Raptors show in Game 4 that they can win without a fully functional Kawhi Leonard

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

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