Of all of the players on the Raptors‘ roster, no one knows Kawhi Leonard like Danny Green does. After all, the two were Spurs teammates before getting traded in a package deal to Toronto last offseason.
Leonard, who scored 19 points in 34 minutes on Tuesday as Toronto tied up the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2 with a 120-102 win over the Bucks, has been instrumental all season — and particularly in the playoffs — in getting the Raptors to this point. As of late, though, he’s been doing it with a leg that’s less than 100 percent.
“He’s playing through pain,” Green told reporters after the game. “He can’t even celebrate baskets because of how painful it is. You dunk on a guy like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and you are worried about your knee, it shows you that he’s fighting. We’re going to need him to fight through the rest of this series. We need two more.”
The Raptors battled back from a 2-0 hole in the series. Kyle Lowry put up 25 points in the Game 4 effort, while Marc Gasol had 17. As they did on Tuesday night, they’ll need to continue to give Leonard support if they’re going to take down the Bucks and go on to the Finals.
“It was a year later and it was still something that he had to manage throughout [this] year,” Green added. “For good reason. Now he’s playing a ton of minutes and as you see, some of it still lingers, is still coming back. It’s an injury that you have to be very careful with and it just shows you that he would fight through it if he could, and he is doing it now.”
The Raptors were often mocked for their strict schedule with Leonard, frequently sitting him during the second half of back-to-backs. While it was seen as a ploy to keep him in Toronto for the foreseeable future, it’s becoming apparent throughout this series that he also may have needed the rest.
Toronto needs six more wins to win the NBA title. And to that, Leonard must continue to fight through this injury in this final postseason stretch.