OAKLAND, Calif. — When the Toronto Raptors emerged from the guests locker room at halftime of Recreation four of the NBA Finals trailing the Golden State Warriors by simply 4 factors — regardless of being badly outplayed within the opening 24 minutes — they knew they’d an opportunity.
Kawhi Leonard then made certain they took full benefit of it.
A shocking show to open the third quarter — he opened the scoring with a Three-pointer over Draymond Inexperienced, then stole the ball from Inexperienced, dribbled it up and made a second Three-pointer over his outstretched arm — erased that deficit in a span of 16 seconds, and it gave Toronto its first lead of the sport.
By the point the quarter was over, Leonard had scored 17 of his 36 factors within the quarter alone, blowing the sport open virtually single-handedly because the Raptors claimed a 105-92 victory over the Warriors.
Toronto now has a commanding Three-1 lead on this best-of-seven sequence, and it might declare its first-ever championship with a win again at Scotiabank Area in Recreation 5 on Monday evening.
“Kawhi Leonard got here out and hit two huge F-you photographs to start out the half,” Fred VanVleet mentioned. “There is no protection for that. There is no schemes for that.
“Two big-boy photographs we got here out of the half with, two back-to-back 3s … that simply kinda let you know the way we had been gonna strategy the third quarter and the remainder of the half.”
Again and again throughout these playoffs, Leonard has delivered for Toronto. His heroics in Recreation four within the Japanese Convention Semifinals in Philadelphia allowed the Raptors to outlive that sport, earlier than his unimaginable series-ending buzzer-beater in Recreation 7 allowed them to advance. Switching onto Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in Recreation Three of the Japanese Convention Finals swung that sequence in Toronto’s path, because the Raptors swept the ultimate 4 video games to advance to their first-ever NBA Finals.
However his efficiency Friday evening — these 36 factors on 11-for-22 capturing, together with 5-for-9 from Three-point vary, to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, 4 steals a block and no turnovers in 40 minutes — might need been his highest but.
A part of that’s due to the magnitude of the second, because the Raptors discovered themselves looking at an opportunity to place a stranglehold on this sequence. And a part of it’s due to the diploma of problem Leonard was offered with. The Warriors, determined to forestall this from being the final-ever sport at Oracle Area, got here out enjoying suffocating protection within the first quarter, and rapidly jumped out to a 23-12 lead.
However whereas his teammates mixed to go 1-for-13 within the opening 12 minutes, and rating a complete of three factors, Leonard went 5-for-Eight and scored 14 by himself, permitting the Raptors to finish the quarter, someway, solely trailing 23-17.
Kawhi Leonard, proper, was no match for Stephen Curry and his Golden State teammates Friday evening, scoring 36 factors to hold Toronto to the win and a Three-1 sequence lead within the NBA Finals. Ezra Shaw/Getty Pictures
“I imply, on the identical time, I knew I had religion that it was going to show round for us,” Leonard mentioned. “We had been lacking a number of wide-open photographs.”
That religion was well-placed, as Leonard missed all 4 photographs he took within the second quarter, however the remainder of the Raptors went 9-for-17 to permit Toronto to enter the break solely trailing by these 4 factors, setting the desk for his third-quarter explosion that put the sport away.
Leonard completed the third quarter with these 17 factors, powering the Raptors to a 37-21 benefit within the quarter that allowed Toronto to take a 79-67 lead into the fourth quarter. It was a efficiency that had the texture of a heavyweight boxer hitting an opponent within the physique with one energy shot after one other, as Leonard went 5-for-Eight from the sphere and one other 5-for-5 from the foul line to slowly however absolutely pound the Warriors into submission.
It was particularly jarring as a result of the third quarter is usually when the Warriors take off.
This time, Toronto beat Golden State at its personal sport.
“Kawhi’s two huge threes to start out the half actually, I assumed, modified the entire really feel of everyone,” Nurse mentioned. “I simply thought everyone was like, ‘OK, man, we all know we’re right here. Let’s go.’
“We simply form of stored going from [there].”
At instances within the fourth quarter, the Warriors made mini-runs to start to chop the deficit. However, at each flip, the Raptors did what they’ve so many different instances throughout these playoffs: reply to an enormous play by an opponent with one in all their very own.
By the point it was over, so many guys had stepped up. Serge Ibaka had 20 factors off the bench, going 9-for-12 from the sphere. Pascal Siakam recovered from an unpleasant first half by scoring 13 factors within the second, and ending with 19 within the sport. Fred VanVleet continued to play robust protection on Stephen Curry, who scored 27 factors however shot 9-for-22 total and 2-for-9 from Three-point vary, earlier than having to depart the sport within the fourth quarter after taking an inadvertent elbow to the top from Shaun Livingston that required seven stitches. Toronto as a staff dedicated solely 11 turnovers, whereas forcing Golden State to commit 19.
Nothing, although, may match what Leonard did. And, due to his newest elegant exhibiting, and one more piece of proof in an ever-growing variety of them declaring that he has turn into, in truth, the perfect participant on the earth, Toronto has moved inside one win of a championship few may see coming.
Do not suppose, although, that the Raptors are going to start out celebrating simply but.
“We did not do nothing but,” Lowry mentioned. “We’ve not executed something. We gained three video games.
“It is the primary of 4. We perceive that. They’re the defending champs, they usually’re not going to exit simple. They are going to come and battle and put together to play the following sport, and that is how we’re making ready ourselves.
“We acquired to arrange ourselves to play the following sport. We’ve not executed something but.”