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Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer discusses the Raptors’ alternatives to get essential offensive rebounds in Recreation 6.
Olivia Reiner, PackersNews

MILWAUKEE — Kawhi Leonard was named All-NBA second team on Thursday, and later, the Toronto Raptors All-Star delivered a two-way efficiency that put the respect in query.

Possibly he ought to have been first-team All-NBA?

Is he the most effective participant within the sport as we speak? Not finest participant within the playoffs. He’s positively that.

Is he the most effective participant? Higher than Kevin Durant? Higher than LeBron James? Higher than James Harden?

Leonard scored a game-high 35 factors, contributed a career-high 9 assists and had seven rebounds and two steals in Toronto’s 105-99 victory over Milwaukee in Recreation 5 of the Japanese Convention finals.

“I am not afraid of the second,” Leonard stated. “I get pleasure from it. And this was our exercise for the summer season. You have simply obtained to exit and shoot the ball, I assume. That is my mindset. Get to a spot, attempt to assist my teammates win the sport.

“Simply attempting to win, both if it is me scoring factors or getting my teammates wide-open seems to be, simply on the market attempting to win. It is not likely about me scoring, it is nearly being aggressive and do not draw back from something.”

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The Raptors have a Three-2 sequence lead after the primary highway victory of the sequence and may advance to the NBA Finals for the primary time in franchise historical past with a win in Recreation 6 on Saturday in Toronto.

They are saying closeout video games are essentially the most tough ones to win, and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo vowed his crew gained’t fold.

“We’re not going to fold. C’mon, man,” he stated. “Greatest crew within the league, man. We’re not going to fold. … If we lose, we lose. OK, cool. However we’re not going to fold as a crew. That’s not what we do.”

It will likely be a wild scene in and round Scotiabank Area on Saturday, and it’s made doable by Leonard, who has taken over this sequence along with his offense and protection and is doing it lower than 100% wholesome.

The playoff numbers are stellar for Leonard. He’s averaging 31.four factors, eight.four rebounds, Three.6 assists and 1.5 steals and taking pictures 51.2% from the sphere and 41.1% on Three-pointers. Durant is the one participant near matching these stats this postseason.

Leonard has scored no less than 30 factors in 11 of 17 postseason video games, and has seven video games with no less than 35 factors. Previously 20 seasons, solely James has scored 35 or extra seven occasions earlier than the Finals, based on ESPN.

“I actually keep in mind he is been unbelievable within the playoffs with the (San Antonio) Spurs as nicely, however you are not as near it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse stated. “Heck, you won’t have even have seen all of the video games or no matter. However I can solely state that he is been actually good, and it looks as if he will get stronger because the fourth wears on.”

In a sport of huge shot after huge shot, Leonard had his share, scoring 15 factors and taking part in each second of the fourth quarter. Throughout a pivotal stretch within the fourth, he scored eight factors in a row, erasing a Bucks lead and placing Toronto forward 87-81 on back-to-back Three-pointers and two free throws.

He later rebounded his personal missed Three-pointer, drew the foul and made two free throws to place Toronto forward 98-95.

“That could be a essential play that may’t occur,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer stated.

Leonard is logging severe minutes too after an everyday season by which the Raptors monitored his minutes and didn’t play him in a single sport of a back-to-back. He performed 40 or extra minutes simply 4 occasions throughout the common season. He has six such video games within the playoffs.

“He could not look forward to the playoffs to get right here,” Nurse stated. “He is performed a variety of minutes, and he is banged-up and he says, ‘All people is banged-up. However I wish to play and I will play and I am able to play.’ I, once more, give him a variety of credit score for that.”

That’s now three consecutive Raptors wins within the sequence towards the Bucks, who didn’t lose greater than two straight all season. Toronto has been higher, however after Recreation 2, Nurse determined to make Leonard the first defender on Antetokounmpo. Since then, Antetokounmpo hasn’t had it straightforward, even with 24 factors. He’s not dominating within the paint, going 6-for-12 on photographs on the rim.

“As spectacular as his offense is — and it is spectacular — I get extra impressed when he is down there guarding and making performs and blocking photographs and flying in for rebounds,” Nurse stated. “My favourite factor is when he simply decides a few times a sport to simply go take it from any person and go the opposite method. These are large momentum performs, and that is spectacular to me.”

Leonard — one among three gamers on the Toronto roster who has performed within the Finals — additionally brings his quiet, poised management to the Raptors.

“Expertise helps loads,” he stated. “You understand, simply from my enter, I have been right here earlier than. I have been to the Finals, and it is just about nothing new that I am seeing on the market. You have simply obtained to have enjoyable with it and luxuriate in it. Like I advised them tonight, we have been down 10, I advised them to benefit from the second and embrace it, and let’s have enjoyable and like it. This is the reason we’re right here.”

He is making his case for NBA’s finest participant, too.

“I do know that I put the work in,” Leonard stated. “I can dwell with the outcomes as a result of I am having enjoyable and I am placing my all out on the ground.”

Observe Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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