Kawhi Leonard carried the Raptors on one leg. He can’t do it again
Kawhi Leonard pulled a hamstring. Or tweaked his ankle. Or strained his quad. Or something. The nature of Leonard’s injury will likely be disclosed some time on Monday, but he absolutely suffered a left leg injury when he landed from a lay-up in the first quarter of Game 3 on Sunday.
Watching Leonard limp up the floor was a scary moment for Toronto fans. He only played nine games last season after a quadriceps injury in the preceding playoffs. The immediate fear was the worst had happened: an aggravation of that injury, one that could sideline Toronto’s star when the Raptors needed him most.
Kawhi Leonard plays through Game 3 after an apparent leg injury. Then you got gasol lookin PETTY af w/ that “hit” just now ♀️ https://t.co/3YF7ptOcAi— Samm (@samantha_hight) May 20, 2019
But Leonard never went to the locker room for his injury. Instead, he labored and powered through, playing 52 minutes for a team that faced at worst a sweep, at best, an 0-3 deficit no team has overcome in NBA playoff history.
A sweep is now off the table. The Raptors will live at least to see a Game 5.
That’s because Leonard scored 36 one-legged points, along with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Nineteen of those points came in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, combined. It was the performance of a lifetime for Leonard, who had scored 31 points in both Game 1 and 2, only for his supporting cast to fall short on the road.
#WeTheNorth @kawhileonard scores 19 of his 36 PTS in the 4th/OT's, guiding the @Raptors (1-2) to the double OT win in Game 3! #NBAPlayoffs
Game 4: Tuesday (5/21), 8:30pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/MqBvc3QT8S
It wasn’t just The Klaw show, either. Marc Gasol, who had been awful through the first two games, hit four threes for 16 points. Pascal Siakam, who was worse than Gasol entering Game 3, had 25 on 50-percent shooting. Norman Powell built on Game 2 with 19 points off the bench in Game 3. It wasn’t a perfect night for Toronto’s reserves, but they gave just enough to live to fight another day.
This won’t be enough to survive in Game 4. Kyle Lowry only scored 11 points. Danny Green, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka combined to shoot 4-of-29 from the field. Giannis Antetokounpo played with foul trouble and fouled out 36 seconds into the second overtime. Toronto won by eight, but if there was a tolerable way for the Bucks to lose, this was it.
We don’t know if this will be a lingering injury for Leonard. He looked just fine when he scored eight points in the second overtime alone, but injuries have a way of setting overnight.
The only thing that’s certain is it’ll take an even better performance in Game 4 if Toronto wants to extend this series. These games will be the difference between Leonard staying a Raptor and potentially leaving elsewhere when his free agency arrives on July 1.
Leonard just put the Raptors on his back, with one leg, to get a win in Game 3. It’s time for the rest of the team to give their star some more help, or else they could watch him leave this summer — even if it’s on crutches.