Toronto Raptors: Who Needs To Step Up Outside Of Kawhi Leonard

This past Sunday, June 2nd, Game 2 of the NBA Finals ended. The Toronto Raptors lost to the 2-time champions Golden State Warriors, at home in their Scotiabank Arena 109-104. The Raptors outscored the Warriors 3 out of 4 quarters. However, the crucial quarter that changed the trajectory and complexion of the game was the 3rd quarter. The Raptor’s lack of production in the 3rd quarter became so obscene, Toronto’s own international superstar and team ambassador, Drake, even was visibly absent from his courtside luxurious seat for long stretches of the quarter. I would imagine you can just call him on his cell.

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Most notably, the Raptors poor shot selection and lapses in both transitional and half-court defense attributed to them surrendering their 5-point half time lead. Thus entering the 4th quarter they trailed 88-80. Kawhi Leonard delivered another superior performance scoring 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while fighting thru lingering injuries. Nonetheless, Leonard appears determined to be mentioned amongst the NBA all-time great performers in playoff and finals history. Emmy award-winning Outstanding Sports Personality and NBA Hall of Fame power forward, Charles Barkley, fittingly nicknamed Kawhi Leonard “cyborg”.

Given Leonard’s dominant performance, despite recovering from a painful thigh injury, being heavily dependent on by teammates to constantly make plays during critical moments, yet still, Leonard manages to execute. Yes, “cyborg” seems appropriate.  Do not just take my word for it. According to Webster’s dictionary, cyborg means a “fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations”. Reminds me of this past weekend in Greenville, SC. My brother, Tory, asked me to carry my sleeping 5-year-old niece. This lasted all of 10 minutes. Her dead weight exceeded my current strength in short span of time.

Currently, transpiring in real time, is the harsh reality that the Raptor’s season will have a bittersweet expiration. Especially without additional help from his teammates. The best place for the Raptors to pay close attention is their shot selection. According to ESPN, the Toronto Raptors shot a meager 35 for 94(37.2%) from the field. An even worst a staggering 11 for 38 in 3 point shot attempts. I am aware of the trend now in the NBA, thanks to the opposition’s point guard and shooting guard, Golden State Warrior’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, better known as the “Splash Brothers”, is to jack up as many three-point shots as possible. It is like saying you want to model just because you saw Margot Robbie and Halle Berry in the same movie.

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However, the Raptor’s poor shooting performance, particularly in the third quarter is what led to their demise. Raptor’s starting point guard, Kyle Lowry needs to step up is play and stop allowing himself to be so distracted by the official’s calls or no calls. Lowry expends too much unnecessary energy and attention toward the NBA game referees. Lowry needs to go back to properly facilitating the Raptor’s offense, by being more aggressive overall. He needs to attack the defense more both in transition and in half court sets on offense.  Lowry is at his best when he penetrates to the basket. Kicking the ball out to an open teammate when the defense collapses on him.

Defensively, his strength is his courage and willingness to take charges. Especially against the bigger Golden State Warrior forwards and centers in route to the basket. Meanwhile, backup point guard Fred VanVleet, ever since his wife has given birth to their newborn son, VanVleet has been consistent and has provided much-needed firepower and leadership off the bench. Pascal Siakim has the most promise to alleviate the scoring burden Leonard shoulders and without his increased production on offense, the Raptors will not be able to over the Warrior’s relentless scoring muscle offensively. Serge Ibaka, has been on a milk carton for a missing person because surely his game is missing in the Finals. Ibaka, Danny Green, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell, simply must all play better.

Who do you feel needs to step up and help Kawhi Leonard? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Jamal on Twitter @Jamalburke9.

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