Going into the 2019 NBA postseason, the odds on favorite were the Golden State Warriors, who were looking to become the first team to "3-peat" since the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers. If they weren't going to win it, then the #1 seed from the eastern conference, Milwaukee Bucks, surely could have been a good choice. What about the Toronto Raptors? Kawhi Leonard, 2014 NBA Finals MVP, could lead a team of 3rd and 4th their players to an NBA championship. What we saw in the 2019 Playoffs was one of the greatest runs in recent basketball memory and a run that will go down in the history books.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, it was clear that the Toronto Raptors had one player who was doing most of the heavy lifting throughout the entire playoffs. Leonard averaged 30.5 points per game, the most since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA postseason. It was clear that he was going to have to do most of the heavy lifting in the playoffs. Although, he saw his teammates have heroic games, like Pascal Siakam in game one of the NBA Finals when he had 34 points or Kyle Lowry who had 26 points in the clinching game six. However, no one was able to consistently have as many points per game like Leonard did throughout the entire postseason. After going on this run, many basketball fans now think of Kawhi Leonard as one of the top three best basketball players in the world. Yes, he is. There are very few people who can have the kind of success that Leonard had, not just in the regular season, but also in the postseason. Now, Leonard has put his name next to some of the greatest to ever play the game, like James, Jordan, Bryant, Johnson, and Byrd. Maybe one day, people will be talking about Leonard being the best player in the world.
While some players have had great runs throughout the playoffs, the fact that Leonard and the Raptors won the NBA championship, as well as Leonard winning Finals MVP, is what's going to make people remember this performance. Yes, Kawhi Leonard played his tail off during this run. He did catch some breaks along the way, one of those being the amazing shot he pulled off in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. He threw up a shot over 7-foot Joel Embiid, and it bounced off the rim three times before falling in, giving the Raptors the win and then eventually leading to an NBA title. Another break the Raptors were able to catch was the fact that Kevin Durant, who is one of the best players in the world, tore his Achilles in game five of the NBA Finals and didn't play in the NBA Finals until game five due to a calf injury. The last break the Raptors were able to catch was when Klay Thompson, who was averaging 26 points a game in the NBA Finals, tore his ACL in game six of the Finals. Again, not taking any credit away from the performance that Leonard had during the playoffs, but as with everything great that happens, there have to be some lucky breaks to fall their way in order for the events to play out. For the Raptors, they were able to catch some very crucial breaks during the NBA Finals.