Almost a year ago, NBA star Kawhi Leonard helped the Toronto Raptors accomplish something that the team has never done in NBA history. The Raptors won their first NBA title in franchise history, and Leonard was a big help.
Kawhi Leonard playing with the Toronto Raptors
When Leonard joined the Raptors, that was big news to the NBA world. This was Leonard’s first time playing in the Eastern Conference after having success with the San Antonio Spurs. There were some concerns regarding the health of Leonard because he missed the majority of the previous season with an injury. He already had a championship under his belt when he joined the Raptors, so he knew what it took to end the season as a champion.
Leonard emerged as a leader on the Raptors team playing alongside Kyle Lowry. When the 2018-19 season started, Leonard got off to a hot start. In his debut with the Raptors, he scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. A few days later, he dropped 31 points and had 10 rebounds in a win over the Boston Celtics. Leonard continued to dominate throughout the remainder of the season.
In 60 games, Leonard averaged 26.6 points, which was a career-high, and he averaged 7.3 rebounds. He made the all-star team for the third time in his career, and the Raptors were a top team in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors were playing some of their best basketball toward the end of the season, going into the playoffs. That’s exactly what the team needed. You need to perform well at the right time, and that’s what the Raptors were doing.
Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 playoff performance
Going into the playoffs, the Raptors were the No. 2 seed and matched up against the Orlando Magic in the first round. The second round was a test for Leonard and the Raptors. The Philadelphia 76ers were the Raptors’ next opponent, and it was a series to remember. It was a back-and-forth series that would come down to the final game.
Leonard led the Raptors in scoring and rebounds during that series. In Game 7, he hit one of the most iconic shots in NBA history. With the game tied at 90, the Raptors had a chance to win it with four seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, Marc Gasol inbounded the ball to Leonard, and Leonard dribbled to the corner right in front of the Raptors bench. Leonard put up a well-contested shot and watched as the ball bounced around the rim multiple times before going in. He sent the Raptors to their first finals appearance in NBA history.
Kawhi Leonard’s NBA Finals performance
The Raptors won the first game in the finals and looked to have momentum against the Golden State Warriors. Both teams battled, and it was a competitive series. Leonard worked hard in the finals and led his team in scoring averaging 28.5 points per game.
Going into Game 6, the Raptors looked to clinch the series on the Warriors’ home court, and that what they did. Both teams went back-and-forth during the entire game. The Warriors did not want to lose on their home court, and the Raptors wanted to end the series. The Raptors would go on to outlast the Warriors and win 114-110 and get their first championship in franchise history. Leonard won his second NBA title and was named the Finals MVP for the second time in his career. He came into Toronto and did what he needed to do and help the Raptors win a title.