Kawhi Leonard has urged his Raptors teammates to “enjoy the moment” after they moved to within one win of the NBA Finals.
Leonard starred with a 35-point game on Thursday, as the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 105-99 win in Milwaukee.
A victory in Game 6 Saturday in Toronto would earn the Raptors their first NBA Finals berth in franchise history.
And Leonard, an NBA champion with the Spurs in 2014, says the Raptors must embrace the pressure.
“Experience helps a lot,” Leonard, 27, 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 playoffs is to come in, have fun, try to execute as best as I can. Play confident and whatever happens will happen.”
Built for the moment. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/nfaf1qy9em
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) 24 May 2019
Leonard did not exert the same authority Thursday as he had in earlier games in the series, but he came up with a game-winning performance in the fourth quarter.
Having opened the Raptors’ scoring in the final period with two jumpers, Leonard followed with a pair of 3-pointers to nudge his team ahead.
The All-Star also provided nine assists, but insists that he is not a player who 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 ballplayer,” Leonard said.
“I try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game, trying to read the defense 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 teammates wide open, I’m just out there trying to win, be aggressive, don’t shy away from anything.”