TORONTO — A lot of this season for Kawhi Leonard has been spent on the subject of load administration.
Effectively, load administration went out the window Sunday evening.
Along with his Toronto Raptors’ season on the road, Leonard performed a career-high 52 minutes Sunday evening — virtually all of them coming after he landed awkwardly following a layup within the first quarter. And he put up his newest stellar line, ending with 36 factors, 9 rebounds and 5 assists to guide his Raptors to a 118-112 victory in double time beyond regulation over the Milwaukee Bucks in Recreation Three of the Jap Convention finals.
The win obtained the Raptors again into the collection, as they now path 2-1 to the Bucks on this best-of-seven affair — thanks principally to Leonard’s newest heroics, which got here precisely per week after Leonard saved Toronto’s season alive right here together with his miraculous buzzer-beater to shut out the Jap Convention semifinals.
“He loves this sport of basketball,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry instructed ESPN afterward. “That is what that was. He loves basketball. To play harm, play by something to get wins, that is what that proved tonight.”
The subject of simply how harm Leonard was by no means went away after he landed off-kilter within the first quarter and got here again down the courtroom hopping on one leg. It appeared at the moment his left leg was bothering him — just for him to, far later within the sport, seize at his proper leg after he ran downcourt and skied for an enormous left-handed quick break slam with Three:13 remaining in double time beyond regulation.
After the sport, although, the Raptors downplayed any points. Toronto coach Nick Nurse mentioned he thought Leonard was “OK,” and Leonard himself dismissed any cause to anticipate him to overlook time on this collection.
“I am good,” he mentioned. “I am simply going to maintain preventing. I’ll be taking part in.”
He did, although, admit that it took a toll on him to play these career-high minutes to tug the Raptors to a win.
“Undoubtedly,” Leonard mentioned, when requested if it felt like he had performed that many. “It is 52 minutes, and it is the playoffs, so that you undoubtedly really feel it. Once you play 30 minutes, you’re feeling it nonetheless.
“Simply obtained to not fear about it and get my therapy and transfer onto the subsequent one.”
When Lowry fouled out halfway by the fourth quarter, it was truthful to marvel if there could be a related “subsequent one” in any respect, given loss would have put Toronto in an all-but-fatal Three-Zero gap within the collection.
The Raptors led for nearly all of regulation, and virtually all of each overtimes, however did so whereas getting virtually all of their factors from 5 gamers: Leonard, Pascal Siakam (25), Marc Gasol (19), Norman Powell (19) and Lowry (11).
By the tip of regulation, although, Lowry and Powell had each fouled out, leaving Nurse to scramble and play Fred VanVleet and Danny Inexperienced for the overtimes — throughout which every hit their first, and solely, pictures of the sport, each from behind the Three-point line. (VanVleet was 1-for-11 for the sport, and Inexperienced was 1-for-9.)
Lowry, in the meantime, spent at the least half the time in his customary seat on the tip of the bench, usually doing something however trying on the courtroom as his teammates tried to maintain his season alive with out him.
“I wasn’t [watching],” Lowry instructed ESPN. “I used to be simply attempting to will the ball in and can their ball out. However if you imagine in my teammates like I do, you’ve got simply obtained to assist them and do the whole lot you’ll be able to presumably do.
“That is the one factor about it. It f—ing sucked. However we received, so it truly is all that issues.”
That the Raptors did triumph was, as regular, largely all the way down to Leonard. Whereas Nurse did not change up his beginning lineup, he did alter each rotations and defensive assignments — together with having Leonard spend way more time on the NBA’s presumptive Most Precious Participant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, than he did within the first two video games.
After defending him on simply three pictures by the primary two video games, Antetokounmpo went 1-for-9 and scored two factors when guarded by Leonard in Recreation Three, in line with ESPN Stats & Info analysis. When Antetokounmpo went up towards anybody else, he was Four-for-7 and scored 10 factors.
“Hear, I believe Kawhi is the very best two-way basketball participant within the NBA,” Lowry instructed ESPN. “I personally imagine that.
“And when you will have a man like that, who can do the issues he can do defensively, and offensively, you set him on the very best participant when it’s essential to.”
The Raptors wanted to, and it labored. Antetokounmpo ultimately fouled out within the second time beyond regulation attempting to attract a cost on Siakam, ending his evening with 12 factors, 23 rebounds, seven assists, 4 blocks and eight turnovers.
It additionally was a bounce-back efficiency from each Siakam (25 factors, 11 rebounds and three steals) and Gasol (16 factors, 12 rebounds, seven assists and 5 blocks) after each had struggled within the first two video games of the collection.
It was Siakam’s two missed free throws on the finish of regulation, nonetheless, that gave Khris Middleton an opportunity to tie the sport within the dying seconds and ship the competition to time beyond regulation.
When the sport was over, although, and the victory in hand, Leonard wasn’t drained sufficient to keep away from giving his teammate a tough time.
“[I told him] ‘Rattling close to performed an hour of basketball tonight,'” Leonard mentioned with a smile. “He was like, ‘My dangerous, Kawhi. I am going to make these two free throws subsequent time.'”
On this evening, although, it was no hurt, no foul for Toronto. That is as a result of, for the most recent time this season, and the second time in per week, Leonard willed the Raptors to a win.
Now, they will simply want him to take action once more thrice within the subsequent 4 video games if they’re to make it to the NBA Finals for the primary time in franchise historical past.
“I simply wish to win,” Leonard mentioned. “That is it. No one desires to go residence. We wish to hold striving and attain that purpose, and that is it.
“That is why I satisfaction myself on [playing] each ends of the ground, and that is what occurs.”