Thursday’s game between the Raptors and Warriors looked a lot like the last time Kawhi Leonard played the Warriors.
Prior to Toronto's thrilling 131-128 OT win, the last time the two-time Defensive Player of the Year was on the floor with Golden State, his team was up by 23 points in Oracle Arena in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals. An injury took Leonard out of that contest, allowing the Warriors to come back and steal a win before eventually sweeping the series.
But two Golden State championships and two Leonard injuries later—it looks like Kawhi still has the Warriors’ number.
Toronto’s offense came out sharp against the two-time defending champions and it was Leonard leading the charge. He had 13 points in the opening quarter to help the home team build a 38-25 lead.
MAHONEY: Luka Doncic Lives to Put on a Show
With Leonard getting any shot he wanted off isolations while also tormenting Golden State on defense in a way only he can, the Raptors built a lead as large as 18.
Although Leonard was the star of the evening, he wasn’t doing it alone. Pascal Siakam (26 points) and Serge Ibaka (20 points) missed just three shots in the first half and finished the night a combined 16-for-23 from the field.
Despite not having a strong shooting performance, Kyle Lowry, the NBA’s leader in assists per game, kept the machine operating with little trouble. He had 12 assists and eight boards and one clutch three in the final minute of regulation to mitigate his 4-for-14 night.
But like last season’s game between the Raptors and Warriors in Toronto, Kevin Durant was eager to ruin Drake’s night.
The reigning two-time Finals MVP dropped 51 in what was his third straight game with at least 40. His club erased an 11-point fourth quarter deficit and with time winding down, Durant sent the game to overtime with a corner three that left Scotiabank Arena silent.
The contest was slipping away from the Raptors and Durant seemed set to do what he did Monday against the Magic and bring the Warriors from out of a hole and into the winner’s circle. Then Leonard and Lowry hit another gear.
Lowry assisted each of Toronto’s first three buckets as it took a three-point advantage with two minutes remaining. Leonard’s defense forced a Durant turnover on the possession after the Raptors took a 126-123 edge. Lowry got a steal on the next Golden State possession.
Then Leonard grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and set up Siakam for another trip to the line that iced the game.
The Warriors without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are hard to gauge, but any team that can survive Durant and Klay Thompson combining for 74 should feel good putting a feather in its cap afterward.
And when that team knows it has a former Finals MVP on its roster who will put up 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting in a marquee matchup, the team should feel good about its chances in June.
Over the last four seasons, the Warriors went 8-0 against the Raptors in the regular season, and thanks to LeBron James and the Cavaliers, never had to worry about seeing them in the Finals. But with Leonard in Toronto now, Golden State has reason to be concerned.