Leonard scores 30 points in dominant Raptors win
Kawhi Leonard recorded 34 points in a dominating performance to lead the Raptors to a 107-85 defeat of the Orlando Magic. The result also put the Raptors up 3-1 in a playoff series for the first time in their franchise history.
Moments after the win, the soft-spoken player talked about how thankful he is to be playing his part in the playoffs this season.
“It was a down year for me. I love to play the game, and being injured is no fun. You want to be out there on the floor with your teammates, feel that team spirit, chemistry, and just trying to focus on one goal,” Leonard said, his white New Balance track jacket zipped high up his neck.
“And that’s something I was missing, just being out, sitting out — that’s why it’s a blessing this year just to be on the floor and be able to play, regardless of what the outcome is.”
Leonard looked like he could single-handedly wrench the outcome in Toronto’s favour on Sunday. Rebounding from flu-like symptoms that kept him out of practice a couple of days earlier in the week. Leonard had one stunning minute-long span in the first quarter. Where he drove a dunk, drove a layup, and produced a running dunk from a hand-off from Marc Gasol.
The 2014 Finals MVP had a similar stretch in the third to kill an Orlando run.
“It’s a little bit of imposing your will. We’ve got an outstanding player that’s going to get us baskets when we need them,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think psychologically that has an impact on a game.”
Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell had 16 points apiece. While Serge Ibaka added 13. Kyle Lowry had nine points to go with his nine assists for the Raptors. Who can close out the best-of-seven opening-round series with a win on Tuesday in Toronto.
Aaron Gordon scored 25 points to lead Orlando. While Evan Fournier scored 19 and Nikola Vucevic added 11 for the Magic. They committed 17 turnovers which Toronto parlayed into 21 points.
“We’re better than what we’ve shown,” Gordon said.
However, Leonard had been under the weather in Friday’s 98-93 win, scoring 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting. Nurse revealed after the game that Leonard had missed a couple of days of practice.
“When you have good teammates with good chemistry guys tend to step up,” Leonard said. “That is how you win games in the playoffs. It is not a one-person team; we all did it collectively throughout the whole year.”
Meanwhile, Leonard, who was sidelined for all but nine games last season with San Antonio with a quadriceps injury, shot 12-for-20 from the field on Sunday, adding six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He utterly dominated on both ends of the floor.
“He’s a Finals MVP,” Gordon said. “Because he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. That’s what they pay the man for, to come down here and be Kawhi Leonard.”
Furthermore, the Raptors could cement their place in the next round if they beat the Magic on Tuesday evening.