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Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard explains defensive intensity after 36-point masterpiece vs. Sixers

kawhi leonard

For those who doubted if Kawhi Leonard is finally back from the mysterious injury that kept him out for the vast majority of the 2017-18 season, look no further than his 36-point masterpiece in a 113-102 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

While his stroke from deep was near-flawless (5-of-6 from long range) and his efficient 13-of-24 from the floor did the bulk of the offensive load, it was Leonard’s defense that shined the brightest, just as it did in San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard did his work on the fourth quarter, deflating a potential comeback as a headband-wearing Ben Simmons tried to slide a pass to an open Jimmy Butler, only for Leonard to get his mitts on it and tap it to teammate Pascal Siakam, who raced up court for the breakaway dunk to carve a 10-point lead for the Raptors.

Leonard rounded up a 36-point gem with nine rebounds and five steals — but the 2014 Finals MVP noted his defense in critical moments stems from repetition.

“I try to perform every night,” Leonard said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I’ve said this before: If you try to turn it on against the good teams, it’s really hard to do that. You’ve got to do it on a nightly basis, whoever you’re guarding, whoever you’re playing.

“Games like this… this could be a playoff team, an opponent in the future. I don’t really see it, though. I just try go out and play every night.”

With the Raptors at 21-5, the best record in the league, Kawhi Leonard is quickly building a case for the Most Valuable Player award, one that can be accompanied by a great comeback story after missing 73 games last season.