Kawhi Leonard Has Made It Look Easy, but He Won’t Discredit Sixers
Has Toronto Raptors' forward Kawhi Leonard been playing really good? Or have the Philadelphia 76ers just been playing bad? That's a valid question when you look at Leonard's success against Philadelphia in the playoffs. Many expected Leonard to be a tough matchup in the postseason, but this guy is utterly inhuman.
On Sunday during Game 4, Leonard and the Raptors were facing a potential fall to 1-3 on the road. Typically, when that's the case, teams are historically out at that point. Knowing that it's going to take a victory to stay alive, Leonard and the Raptors gave the sluggish Sixers their best effort in South Philly, and they came out on top. Leonard led the Raptors with 39 points, shooting a ridiculously high 65-percent from the field.
To say that Leonard has been a force for Toronto would be a massive understatement. Without him, the Sixers are probably comfortably in the lead for this series, rather than all tied up at two. Has it been easy for Leonard? Not exactly. Despite his series average being 38 points-per-game, Leonard has been struggling at times mentally. The Sixers know he's going to get his points, so realistically there's no stopping him. However, you can slow him down. And just because the numbers say that Leonard has been unstoppable and barely breaking a sweat out there, the veteran forward refuses to discredit Philly like that.
After the desperate Game 4 victory for Toronto, Leonard had a swarm of reporters around ready to talk to him. When he was asked about whether he feels like he's even breaking a sweat out on the court or not, Leonard made it very clear that he was. "That's not fair to the Sixers," Leonard said, despite putting up historical numbers throughout this series.
It's clear that Leonard is beyond just an elite postseason performer. However, situational stats will tell you that there were times when the Sixers held the Raptors star in check. For example, during the fourth quarter, Leonard was held to one point up until there were about three minutes left in the game. After dominating up and down the floor, the Sixers were doing all they could to hold the Toronto superstar in check. Unfortunately, the Sixers didn't take advantage on the offensive side of the ball during the drought.
There is only so much you can do against Leonard when it comes to defending him. As the Sixers remained focused on slowing down Leonard, they need to ensure that one of Toronto's other stars don't start turning up the heat as well. Although Kyle Lowry had a decent bounce-back game on Sunday, he still hasn't hit his stride in the playoffs.
And as for the other guys such as Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, the Sixers are looking to keep them in check as well. This has been a defensive series for the Sixers so far, and they have done relatively well. Unfortunately, there's only so much you can do on that side of the ball without putting up points on the other end.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_