LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors are one win away from an NBA Finals berth, and Canadian sports fans are taking note.
“We’re extremely excited about the Raptors,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday when asked about the growing frenzy surrounding the Raptors’ run.
“Obviously my son is a massive Raptors fan, and we’re having him stay up later than we would like because he’s watching the games along with much of Canada.”
The Raptors have roared back from an 0-2 deficit in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
After a 105-99 victory in Milwaukee on Thursday night they can clinch their first appearance in the championship series with a home win on Saturday.
Leonard has been pivotal to the playoff run.
Leonard rattled in the game-winning buzzer-beater in game seven of the second-round series against Philadelphia that put Toronto into the Eastern finals.
He is averaging 31.4 points, 8.4 rebounds 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals in the playoffs and shooting 51.2 percent from the field. He has scored at least 30 points in 11 of 17 post-seaon games and has seven games with at least 35.
Just as impressively, he has spearheaded Toronto’s superb defensive effort against Milwaukee’s MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo. With Leonard guarding him, Antetokounmpo has connected on just 35 percent of his shots.
“I’m not afraid of the moment,” said Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs against the Miami Heat in 2014.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “Just trying to win, either if it’s me scoring points or getting my teammates wide-open looks, just out there trying to win. It’s not really about me scoring, it’s just about being aggressive and don’t shy away from anything.”
Although Antetokounmpo has been frustrated over the past three games, the “Greek Freak” vowed that the Bucks will arrive in Toronto determined to keep alive a season in which they posted the best record in the NBA.
“We’re not going to fold,” he said. “Come on, man, best team in the league, man. We’re not going to fold. ... If we lose, we lose. OK, cool.
“But we’re not going to fold as a team. That’s not what we do.”