Kawhi Is Borderline Indescribable

Bless this man. What an absolute treasure.

Jim Rome
May 24, 2019 - 9:45 am
Kawhi Leonard

USA Today

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The Toronto Raptors are damn good. They are damn tough. And Kawhi Leonard is borderline indescribable. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what he did last night, and I know the Bucks are too.

Because that wasn’t just his best game in a Raptors uniform, that might have been his best game in any uniform. It’s easy to become a prisoner of the moment, but we are witnessing one of the all-time great playoff performances by an individual. As epic as that shot was in Game 7 against Philadelphia, what he did last night was even better.

Milwaukee came out flying, as you’d expect. The Bucks had just dropped a pair in Toronto. For the first time all season, they’d tasted their own blood. They were going back home and they were going to make things right.

And then Kawhi went to work. And if you only remember one thing from last night, make it this quote: “I’m not afraid of the moment. I enjoy it.”

That is the damn truth. If you ever doubted his toughness, you should stop doing that immediately. You should’ve stopped doing that long before he played 52 minutes in Game 3 on a bad leg. And if you ever doubted his ability to lead, you should knock that off to, because he’s proven he can lead a team that he’s been with for just one season.

But then there’s Kawhi the Playmaker. That Kawhi was in full-effect last night and that is new. The knock on him is that if you run guys at him, you can cause problems. The thinking had been that he can do everything at an elite level, except for set up teammates. Until last night.

Because Milwaukee was throwing different looks at him. They were tilting the floor to him, and he had nine assists, more than he’s ever had. And all nine set up three pointers. Toronto hit 18 threes last night, Kawhi either made or set up 14 of them en route to the 105-99 win.

And the big beneficiary of Kawhi’s playmaking was another guy with a monster game: Fred VanVleet. F.V.V. was B.I.G. In the Philadelphia series and the first three games against Milwaukee, Fred wasn’t exactly at his best. 7 of 44, including 3 of 25 from deep. The last two games, he’s found something. 3 for 3 from three in Game 4. And then goes off in Game 5.

7 for 9. He’s gone from hitting 12 percent from deep to hitting 80%. So what changed? What’s his secret?

"Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose.”

Seriously. Between Games 3 and 4, Fred VanVleet Junior was born. And ever since then, Fred VanVleet Senior can’t miss. Just don’t give Fred Junior too much credit.

Senior was huge last night. All of the Raptors were. They had been dead in this series and now they’re one win away from winning the thing.

When the Bucks were falling apart late with one weird move after another, the Raptors were doing exactly what you have to do to win on the road and get a chance to finish on your home floor.

Again, Kawhi Leonard: “I’m not afraid of the moment. I enjoy it.”

The Raptors are enjoying this and the Bucks are definitely not. I’m not saying they’re afraid of the moment. Far from it. But it sure seemed like the moment got to them last night. That was so un-Bucks of them down the stretch. They couldn’t even foul when they wanted to foul late in the game. They turned that into a Keystone Cops scenario.

Milwaukee was all over the place, in a bad way. And Kawhi was all over the place in a good way. I’ve only touched on the assists so far. Don’t sleep on the 35 points. Or the 7 rebounds.

Or the fact that he carried the weight when he was playing with a number of bench players in the second half. Or the fact that he was doing this.

And definitely don’t sleep on the fact that he absolutely dominated Giannis at the other end of the floor. If you thought Giannis had a quiet night with 24 points, it was dead silent when Kawhi was guarding him.

As the great Tom Haberstroh pointed out, when Kawhi was on Giannis, the Freak had 10 points on 37 possessions. 10 points on 37 possessions. A guy who is likely going to win multiple MVPs in his career and may very well become the face of the league is getting erased by Kawhi Leonard. It is unreal.

If Kawhi was a defensive specialist and all he did was shut down Giannis, he’d be the most important player in the series. Instead, he’s a defensive specialist giving you 35 points and 9 assists.

And then chasing all of that with the most literal postgame interview ever.

How do you beat the Bucks four games in a row? I don’t know, I haven’t done it.

What’s this team’s mentality with history on the line? I haven’t even gotten into the locker room yet. We just finished the game.

Bless this man. What an absolute treasure. Tired is clowning Kawhi for being boring. Wired is looking forward to those postgame interviews, because you know you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. What a legend.