About an hour after his team suffered a blowout loss at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard — never one to be subsumed into narratives or high drama — offered the most literal response to the most pressing question facing his Toronto Raptors.
“We’re going to Toronto,” said Leonard, when asked where his team, now trailing the Eastern Conference finals 2-0, goes from here. “Game 3.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china
You have to admire Leonard’s unflappable resolve. After outplaying the Bucks for most of Game 1 before losing in the closing minutes, the Raptors were outperformed wire-to-wire in Game 2. They struggled on each end of the floor, both with establishing a steady flow in the half court and with neutralizing Milwaukee’s rhythm. The Bucks, now 10-1 this postseason, are just two games from their first NBA Finals in 45 years — and they have yet to play their best basketball in the first two games of this series.
Even though Leonard’s comment might seem imperceptive on the surface, he’s correct to point out that the action now heads to Toronto, because few things shift momentum in a series quite like a change in venue. Yet to hold serve in Toronto, the Raptors will have to quickly come up with some solutions to a few very pressing problems.
Few defenders in the NBA have thrived in that challenge more effectively than Khris Middleton this season, a pattern that has continued in the playoffs. Leonard scored 31 points in both games at Milwaukee, but he has worked exceptionally hard to do so. Middleton, as well as Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, have limited Leonard’s drives to his right, influencing him to his weaker hand — and into the Bucks’ active help defenders. Time and again on Friday, Leonard found himself headed in a suboptimal direction off a screen only to encounter the likes of Brook Lopez — who, as Raptors coach Nick Nurse said on Saturday, “never leaves the paint” — or Ersan Ilyasova.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china
In Games 3 and 4, the Raptors will need to figure out ways to shift the Bucks’ defense to give Leonard a little more breathing room in the half court. That might mean getting Leonard the ball later in the possession after some primary actions predicated on movement. For instance, Pascal Siakam can pressure defenses off the dribble, as can Kyle Lowry off some crafty pick-and-roll action.
The Raptors certainly ran these sorts of sets, but when they’re generating only 0.80 points per Leonard drive and 0.79 points on possessions when Leonard works in isolation, they’ll need to be even more resourceful.