They are only three, in NBA history, to have scored more than 725 points in a single playoff campaign: Michael Jordan (759 in 1992), LeBron James (748 in 2018) and Kawhi Leonard (732 in 2019) . Three memorable courses for everyone, punctuated by the double “title of champion + MVP of the Finals” for “His Airness” and “The Claw”.
Rightly considered by many to be the closest version to Michael Jordan, Kawhi Leonard (30 years old today) has never proved it better than during his 2019 playoffs with the Raptors. Because with his 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 interceptions on average, at 49% on shots, 38% at 3-points and 88% on free throws, in 39 minutes and over 24 games, the 15th choice of the Draft 2011 has effectively worked on its defenders, round after round, like “MJ” in its time.
Above all, allowing Toronto to recover from the handicaps of 0-1 in the first round, 1-2 in the conference semifinals and then 0-2 in the conference final. Before triumphing against the Warriors of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, admittedly diminished in this series, during the Finals.
In detail, this thus gives averages of …
- 27.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists, at 56% on shots, 54% on 3-points and 89% on throws, in the first round against the Magic (4-1).
- 34.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists, 53% on shots, 33% on 3-points and 86% on throws, in the conference semifinals against the Sixers (4-3).
- 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals, 44% on shots, 34% on 3-points and 89% on throws, in the conference final against the Bucks (4-2).
- 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals, 43% on shots, 36% on 3-points and 91% on throws, in the Finals against the Warriors (4-2).
A short-lived but unforgettable epic
But more than the statistics, it was the visual impression given by Kawhi Leonard that struck many observers that year. That of a player at the top of his game, in top form physically, sure of his strength and able to score on anyone, without showing waste, while being particularly impactful defensively.
And how to talk about this 2019 playoff campaign without mentioning this fabulous action of “The Claw” against Philadelphia ? In Game 7, to send his franchise to the conference final, on a legendary buzzer-beater, after multiple rebounds on the circle. To the chagrin of Joel Embiid …
It was therefore necessary for the Raptors of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, Fred VanVleet or even Norman Powell to win the first Larry O’Brien trophy in their young history. They which were born in 1995, without knowing too much success, in spite of the successive presences of Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan.
As for Kawhi Leonard, arrived in Canada in confusion after his imbroglio with the Spurs, he thus made his only season spent in Toronto a great adventure, before finally joining the Clippers during the “free agency” 2019. Leaving to the Canadian fans have unforgettable memories, with a hint of bitterness, however, wondering what would have happened to this group, if the double MVP of the Finals (2014, 2019) had stayed a little longer in Ontario …