TORONTO-- Less than 48 hours after delivering the greatest moment in Raptors franchise history, Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the team were back at practice on Tuesday. Nobody in the city of Toronto is over the exhilaration of Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer-beater just yet. Well, nobody except for Kawhi.
Asked when he got over the shot, Leonard was his usual matter-of-fact self.
“The next day,” Leonard said. “I came in around 1 o’clock and started preparing for the next series.”
The questions kept coming though. Did he see any of the photos, videos and memes, one of which photoshopped his shot as a Canadian heritage moment?
“That’s the first time I heard that,” Leonard said. “Pretty much everyone congratulated me and the team on the win. I don’t know the ripple effect of it.”
By the fourth question about the shot, Leonard was already tired of the questions and ready to move on.
Nick Nurse followed Leonard’s even-keeled approach, and even called himself a party pooper because he’s tried his best to insulate himself from all of the celebration over the past two days, but it’s been hard to avoid.
“When I’m sitting in my lobby waiting for my Uber to come, I hear conversations going on,” Nurse said. “[They’re talking] about where they were watching the game and you can sense that excitement a little bit. There’s nothing like a buzzer beater. I think that added a lot to the emotion of it all. But it’s good. All I’m really happy about is that we’re still playing and getting ready to go again because I kind of expected us to be playing at this time of year.”
Everyone will have plenty of time to revisit the shot when the season is over, but now the focus shifts to the Eastern Conference final and a matchup against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors will open the series on the road Wednesday and know they face a challenge in containing Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nurse called guarding the potential Most Valuable Player a “five person job,” but is encouraged by Toronto’s defensive performance in the previous round against the Sixers, especially his team’s willingness to sacrifice their body on the defensive end.
“The one thing I’m proud of our defence is that we stand in there and take hits,” Nurse said.
The defence will likely have to be even better, and to keep up with the Bucks, the Raptors will have to get more consistent performances from the supporting cast. Even though they’re in the Eastern Conference final, Nurse is hoping his team can shake the inconsistencies that plagued them at times over the first two rounds.
“We had some great moments where we looked awesome and we had some moments that were really bad where we didn’t play very well,” Nurse said. “I’m hoping we learned that how proportionate our effort is into how well we play.”
The Raptors are starting a series on the road for the first time this postseason, but Leonard says he doesn’t consider Toronto to be the underdog.
“I don’t think so,” Leonard said.
After Sunday’s shot, you should probably take his word for it until further notice.
News and notes
Expectations: Kawhi was asked about what his expectations of the Raptors were entering training camp. “I wasn’t sure,” Leonard said. “They were a good team last year. So with the addition of me and Danny [Green], the sky was the limit. I know that we all had a goal to get to the Finals.”
Injury update: Nurse says OG Anunoby, who has missed the entire postseason after an emergency appendectomy on the eve of the playoffs, is moving around but it will be at least another week before they can evaluate him for a potential return. In other words, “he’s one week away from being one week…,” Nurse said, stopping himself short of completing the Bruno Caboclo draft-night reference.
The shot heard around the world: Everyone in Toronto has probably watched Kawhi’s shot at least 500 times (low estimate, in my opinion) set to the tune of every single song imaginable (my personal favourite: the shot set to The Avengers theme). Pascal Siakam was asked at practice on Tuesday how many times he’s seen the shot. “A lot of times,” Siakam said. “Every time you go on Instagram you find it.”
Prediction. Nobody asked but I’m going to make a prediction based on two things. One: Skip Bayless has started trolling Kawhi Leonard in the same way he used to with LeBron James. I am of the belief anyone who Skip trolls ends up in the NBA Finals. It worked for LeBron, it will work for Kawhi. Two: I don’t believe the Bucks have faced a good team in the playoffs yet, having breezed past the Pistons and Celtics in the first two rounds. The Bucks will be tough, but I think Toronto’s stifling defence, a belief their 3-point shooting will regress to the mean after a tough series against the Sixers, and Kawhi Leonard will present new challenges for this Milwaukee team. Sure, why not, let’s go with Raptors in 6.
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