Raptors must live for the moment as NBA Finals beckon, says Leonard

By Patric Ridge 24 May 2019 550
Raptors must live for the moment as NBA Finals beckon, says Leonard

Kawhi Leonard has urged his Toronto Raptors team-mates to "enjoy the moment" after they moved to within one win of the NBA Finals.

Leonard starred with a 35-point game on Thursday, as the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals after a 105-99 win at the Fiserv Forum.

A victory in the sixth game on Saturday would confirm the Raptors' place in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.

And 2019 All-Star Leonard - an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 - says the Raptors must embrace the pressure.

"Experience helps a lot," Leonard told a news conference. "I've been here before, I've been to the finals, it's pretty much nothing new that I'm seeing.

"You've just got to have fun with it, enjoy it. I told them tonight, when we were down 10, to enjoy the moment and embrace it and have fun and love it, this is why we're here.

"It's a great opportunity. What you work for in the summer is to win basketball games. 

"The same mindset through the play-offs is to come in, have fun, try to execute as best as I can. Play confident and whatever happens will happen."

Leonard did not exert the same authority on proceedings as he has done in earlier matches throughout the series, but came up with a match-winning performance in the fourth quarter.

Having opened the Raptors' scoring in the final period with two jumpers, Leonard followed up with a pair of three-pointers to nudge his side ahead.

The 27-year-old also provided nine assists, but insists that he is not a player that aims to dictate the Raptors' play

"I'm not a guy that really controls the ball the whole game. I just try to give other people the opportunities to shine, and not try to be a dominant ball player," Leonard said.

"I try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game, trying to read the defence throughout the entire game, see what's working. 

"I'm not afraid of the moment, I enjoy it. You've just got to go and shoot the ball, that’s my mindset.

"Get to a spot, help my team win the game. If it's me scoring points or getting my team-mates wide open. I'm just out there trying to win, be aggressive, don't shy away from anything."

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