07 May, 2019
Embiid missed a crucial layup and three free throws down the stretch as the Raptors pulled away in Sunday's Game 4 for a series-tying 101-96 victory. A reporter observed that it seemed like he was doing it all without breaking a sweat. "I'm definitely breaking a sweat out there". That's for you guys to do.
He dribbles, moves, jumps, shoots at his own pace, in his own style, his game somehow independent of and separate from the game, from whatever else is happening around him. Like the Sixers, Toronto struggled shooting beyond the arc with a three-point percentage of only 32.3%.
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots against Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Scott (1) during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. The Raptors are averaging 113.9 points per 100 possessions when he is in the game, compared to just 93.0 when he is on the bench.
If you'd like testimony from the team now tasked with guarding him, there's no shortage of praise. Redick was assisted by Jimmy Butler on the shot.
"We just want him to be aggressive", Butler said. "All the shots that he's taking are tough, contested. We still have an fantastic opportunity to go for the Eastern Conference championship and then get to the Finals, so we're looking forward to it".
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The man Leonard has mainly been tasked with defending, a 6-foot-10 All-Star in Simmons, managed only 10 points and four assists Sunday. Yet Leonard is at once of the Raptors and apart from them, a perception only enhanced by the reality that, because he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, he might not return to the team once this postseason ends.
"They ended up switching", Leonard said on his big shot. "I got to be more aggressive". The Sixers were close all game, even holding the lead for considerable periods of time. Leonard drove into a double team, hunted around for a shot, and with the shot-clock about to expire, launched a fading three-pointer against Joel Embiid, human skyscraper. He's too good. As Brett Brown put it, he's Kobe Bryant-esque.
Neither player was the player they had previously been in the series. With Leonard, every moment is the same as the one that preceded it.
Sure, Philly had the momentum, the home court, and nearly universal support from the media, but apparently, no one told that to Kawhi Leonard and company, as the Raptors regrouped, reloaded, and returned to the Wells Fargo Center committed to evening the series out at 2-all before it returns North of the border.
"Just really growing up learning from great players, I was fortunate enough to be on some good teams early", Leonard said, "so I was able to see defenses and go on deep playoff runs and I feel that helped me out today".