**This is Part Two of a 24-part series, looking back at the Toronto Raptors 2019 Playoff Run that concluded with the franchise winning its inaugural NBA Championship**
Kawhi Leonard needed just 13 seconds to score in Game 2.
This foreshadowed how the rest of the game unfolded for the Toronto Raptors.
Leonard’s game-high 37 points propelled the Raptors to a dominant 111-82 victory over the Orlando Magic, evening the series at one.
The fascinating aspect of Leonard’s performance is he did it in just 33 minutes. The time on the court was similar in Game 1, where the Raptors superstar put up a team-high 25 points in the 104-101 loss.
All season long, the Raptors supported Leonard in his “load management” regime. This ensured the 28-year-old’s health and preparedness to endure a lengthy NBA Playoffs.
The Raptors knew they struck gold in Game 2 when Leonard showcased his playoff abilities in a short amount of playing time.
— Taste Of Sport (@TasteOfSport) April 17, 2019
“He was pretty good tonight,” said Nick Nurse, the Raptors head coach. “He was much more locked in defensively. Every guy who hit the floor was locked in as a team defense tonight.”
Leonard’s previous playoff experiences demonstrated his affinity for responding with a big game after losing. In the 2014 NBA Finals, after the Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 98-96 in Game 2, Leonard led the Spurs in scoring the next three games (23.7 PPG over that stretch) en route to a championship.
Much like the Spurs, the Raptors relied on their superstar in Game 2 after dropping the opening game.
The Raptors struggled to shoot the three in Game 2, going 31.4 percent from beyond the arc. Leonard provided a bright spot with four three-pointers, including a 23-foot shot to put the Raptors up 12 points in the second quarter.
Leonard was critical in the Raptors ball movement. At 10:56 in the third quarter, the Raptors small forward hesitated from beyond the arc, went to the paint on a screen, dished a pass to a wide-open Marc Gasol off a switch, who drained the three.
Defensively, the Raptors adjusted to protect the perimeter. D.J. Augustin, who had 25 points in Game 1, only put up nine in Game 2, with only one three-point attempt.
Leonard’s tight defense resulted in turnovers, such as when he stole the ball off of Nikola Vučević in the third quarter. It is the intensity on both ends of the floor that demonstrates the greatness of Leonard on the playoff stage.
“We felt like we didn’t play our best basketball in Game 1,” Leonard said to reporters after the game. “All of us bought in, wanting to win this game to protect home court.”
Nurse’s decision to limit Leonard’s minutes early in this series paid off later in the postseason when the Raptors superstar needed to play longer.
Game 2 against the Magic may not have been Leonard’s most memorable playoff performance.
But it highlighted the impact a superstar brings to a team like the Raptors, desperate to achieve the pedestal of postseason success.
**NOTE: Game 3 of the Raptors/Magic series is on Sportsnet at 8 pm EST, Sunday March 22nd**