That Weirdo Is Really Good

Kawhi Freaking Leonard

Jim Rome
May 06, 2019 - 10:27 am
Kawhi Leonard

USA Today

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Heading into Sunday's Game 4 in Philadelphia, everything was trending the Sixers way. 

Vegas couldn't move the point spread fast enough. Game 4 opened with the Sixers a home dog, getting a point in their own building. By the time they tipped, Philly was laying three at most betting windows. 

Some of that was Pascal Siakam and his busted up calf. Some of it was Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol busting up rims. But the rest was the Sixers. 

Philly dominated Game 3. Joel was dropping windmill dunks and airplane wings. The Answer and Meek Mill were partying courtside. The crowd was hyped. Philly's bench was going off.  Even another hero game from Kawhi wasn't enough.

When a point spread tips the way Game 4s did, somebody knows something. And that something felt like the inevitable

Five straight Raptors teams bowing out in Round 2 or earlier. Half a decade of Toronto squads bullying through the regular season before getting the hands come playoff time. 

And just when it looked like the Sixers were about to wrap their hands around the Raptors neck and put them in the ground, the King of the North looked death in the eye and said, "Not Today." 

Toronto 101, Philadelphia 96. 

And Kawhi Freaking Leonard Infinity.  

That game, right there, is why Masai Ujiri made the trade. That performance is why the Raptors were willing to risk everything. With Toronto on the ropes and desperate to avoid a 3-1 hole, Kawhi put that team on his freaking back and carried them back home with a 2-2 split.  

43 minutes. 39 points on just 20 shots. 14 boards. 65 percent from the floor. 71 percent from outside. Five assists. Lockdown D. If you told me Kawhi loaded the bags onto the bus, I'd believe you. Hell, if you told me he jumped in the cockpit and flew the team plane back to Toronto, I'd believe that, too. 

Because that was an everything performance. That wasn't just 1 man on 5. That was 1 man on an entire city. Through 9 games this postseason, Kawhi's shooting almost 59 percent this postseason. This series, he's averaging 38 a game on 62 percent shooting this series. If that sounds freaky, it's because it is freaky. Only Mike has averaged more than 35 on 60% shooting in a series. That's it. 

Kawhi is 21 of 24 this series with open looks. He's almost as deadly with a hand in his face. Single team him, double team him, whatever the hell Brett Brown throws at him, Kawhi has an answer. 

And with the Raptors holding on to a 1 point lead with just over a minute to go, Kawhi had both Ben Simmons AND Joel Embiid in his face. The shot clock was winding down. And he rolled around a screen, stepped back behind the arc and landing an absolute dagger from distance. 

I mean, you talk about brass. Kawhi had to work through 6-foot-10 inch Ben Simmons to get to Joel Embiid, a dude with a 7-foot-6 inch wing span. And he didn't blink.

And postgame, you didn't hear Philly players or coaches complain about the refs or blame themselves for missed opportunities, they just tipped their freaking hat. 

Here's Jimmy Butler: 

“He’s a really good player. He’s been doing that for a long time now in the league. He’s been doing that every game of this series. So, I don't know what else can you do?”

Here's Tobias Harris: 

“All the shots he’s taking are tough and contested. He’s a heck of a player. You’ve just got to continue to be physical with him, show a crowd, and limit his touches. That’s the biggest thing.”

Brett Brown compared him to the Mamba. 

But better than anything those three guys said, THIS DUDE from the cheap seats at the Wells Fargo Center had this for him. Per the Athletic, this is what one fan was screaming at Kawhi as he was lighting the joint on fire. 

“Weirdo. Weirdo. You’re a weird guy. Weirdo.”

Well, that Weirdo just sent this series back to Toronto tied at 2. That Weirdo is doing it better than maybe any perimeter player ever in the postseason. That Weirdo is stone-cold and dead-eyed. He's not scared of Toronto's past. He's not worried about Toronto's future. He's just taking everything the Sixers throw at him and dishing it right back even colder. 

Toronto loses that game, the series is over. But they didn't. 

Because that Weirdo wouldn't let them.