What Kawhi Leonard did Friday night should come as no surprise to Toronto Raptors fans.
The 29-year-old two-time NBA Finals MVP put on a vintage performance to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 against the Dallas Mavericks. On the surface, his stats were eye-popping. He scored 45 points on 18-for-25 shooting with six rebounds and four assists. But it’s how Leonard got to those 45 points that makes him so special. He shot 13-for-16 on two-point field goals and 8-for-10 from the midrange.
That shot has been the bread and butter for Leonard. While so many players in the league have shied away from the midrange game, opting to score at the rim or behind the arc, Leonard remains an NBA throwback, willing to get to his spot just inside the arc and take his jumper.
Back in 2019, during Leonard’s famous 41-point Game 7 performance against the Philadelphia 76ers, 16 of his 39 shots came in the midrange. On that night, he wasn’t particularly efficient shooting just 16-for-39, but the Raptors had nobody else to turn to, so Leonard did what he had to do.
Sunday afternoon will see Leonard and the Clippers return to the Game 7 stage. It’ll be the fifth Game 7 of his career and while it certainly won’t be the most important one, considering everything L.A. has put into these past two seasons, a loss might be as disappointing as ever.