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Raptors must live for the moment as NBA Finals beckon, says Leonard

By Opta
Raptors star Kawhi Leonard

New York, May 24: Kawhi Leonard has urged his Toronto Raptors team-mates to "enjoy the moment" after they moved to within one win of the NBA Finals.

Leonard starred with a 35-point game on Thursday (May 23), as the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals after a 105-99 win at the Fiserv Forum.

A victory in the sixth game on Saturday would confirm the Raptors' place in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.

And 2019 All-Star Leonard - an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 - says the Raptors must embrace the pressure.

"Experience helps a lot," Leonard told a news conference. "I've been here before, I've been to the finals, it's pretty much nothing new that I'm seeing.

"You've just got to have fun with it, enjoy it. I told them tonight, when we were down 10, to enjoy the moment and embrace it and have fun and love it, this is why we're here.

"It's a great opportunity. What you work for in the summer is to win basketball games.

"The same mindset through the play-offs is to come in, have fun, try to execute as best as I can. Play confident and whatever happens will happen."

Leonard did not exert the same authority on proceedings as he has done in earlier matches throughout the series, but came up with a match-winning performance in the fourth quarter.

Having opened the Raptors' scoring in the final period with two jumpers, Leonard followed up with a pair of three-pointers to nudge his side ahead.

The 27-year-old also provided nine assists, but insists that he is not a player that aims to dictate the Raptors' play

"I'm not a guy that really controls the ball the whole game. I just try to give other people the opportunities to shine, and not try to be a dominant ball player," Leonard said.

"I try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game, trying to read the defence throughout the entire game, see what's working.

"I'm not afraid of the moment, I enjoy it. You've just got to go and shoot the ball, that’s my mindset.

"Get to a spot, help my team win the game. If it's me scoring points or getting my team-mates wide open. I'm just out there trying to win, be aggressive, don't shy away from anything."

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Story first published: Friday, May 24, 2019, 14:40 [IST]
Other articles published on May 24, 2019
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