In Game 4, everything seemed set for the Raptors to lose. Pascal Siakam injured? Check. Bench being bad all playoffs? Also a check. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol coming off a slump? Double check. Playing on Philadelphia’s home court? You bet. The Raptors needed to win this game: going down 3-1 in not a good sign for a would be contender. The 76ers kept on pushing to win: they kept the lead close most of the game and dominated for stretches. Jimmy Butler was going off all game: he ended with a double double on the night, tallying 29 points and 11 rebounds. Jimmy Butler came to win. But so did someone else.
This Game 4 is precisely the reason Toronto made their blockbuster trade last summer. Kawhi Leonard is a historic playoff performer by any metric. There is something calming about a player who can carry a team on his shoulders. Some wilt under the pressure. Others rise up and dominate. Kawhi Leonard is one of the latter. He scored buckets when his team needed him to, keeping them in the game, and eventually overtaking their opponent. There was also this beautiful highlight towards the end of the fourth quarter:
KAWHI LEONARD, NAILS pic.twitter.com/GUB8dLAtZr
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) May 5, 2019
No Raptors player in recent memory has hit a shot of such difficulty, in the clutch and in the playoffs. At that moment in the game, he needed to make that shot. The Raptors were only up by 1, and they were clinging on to that lead for dear life. Kawhi Leonard’s triple gave the team some breathing room, and they managed to close out the game. The fact that Kawhi had the confidence to take that shot, and then the audacity to make it over Joel Embiid allows us to see the type of player that he is. Kawhi doesn’t waste time on theatrics: his only goal is to win each game, one by one.
One shot does not a legend make, one might say. Yet for Leonard it is never one shot. Kawhi Leonard has been willing Toronto to victory. The Raptors’ superstar is averaging 32.3 PPG through Game 4, while shooting 58.7% from the floor, and 50% (!) from 3 point range. Kawhi Leonard has always been an efficient scorer: his efficiency is not surprising. It is only surprising since he has increased his efficiency while taking on an even larger role in the offense. Throughout this 2nd round series alone, Leonard is averaging 38
Here is a quote from Leonard that encapsulates his playoff mindset;
Kawhi Leonard: “There’s 82 games and for me these are just practices and playoffs is when it’s time to lace them up.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 2, 2019
If these playoffs are an example of Leonard lacing them up for real, then sign me up. This is a historic postseason for the Raptors’ superstar, and Toronto fans get to witness greatness first hand. There have been countless comparisons to Jordan and Kobe, but why can’t Kawhi be Kawhi? Leonard is a legend already in Toronto because NEVER before had a player put up such numbers for them in the playoffs. Leonard has already set the record for the amount of 30 point games that player has had for the Raptors in a single playoff run. He set his career-high with the Raptors.
The fact that he is in Raptors records books shows that he has made his own path at this franchise, and we should be proud that such a player is currently playing for our franchise. To be honest, I really do think he stays, unlike most of the American media. Why wouldn’t he? In Toronto, Leonard has some guaranteed positives. The most money any team can offer him. A 2nd star in Pascal Siakam. A GM not afraid to make big moves in Masai Ujiri. A good supporting roster, with Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry. Kawhi Leonard has already become a legend for this franchise by allowing ourselves to go toe to toe with any team, and coming through when the team needs. He has already graced us with watching some of the most beautiful basketball this team has ever seen.
Why not stay and become the face of a franchise, instead of going to LA and starting over?
Why abandon everything he has to gain?
Kawhi is already a legend. But he can truly make this franchise his own and no-one elses.
What’s it gonna be Kawhi?