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Kawhi Leonard sore and fatigued but ready to face Milwaukee Bucks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals

Watch Bucks @ Raptors Game 4 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Wednesday morning (1:30am)

Wednesday 22 May 2019 07:54, UK

Kawhi Leonard scores with a dunk in the Raptors' Game 3 win over the Bucks
Image: Kawhi Leonard scores with a dunk in the Raptors' Game 3 win over the Bucks

Toronto Raptors talisman Kawhi Leonard is battling soreness and fatigue but will be ready to face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Live NBA: MIlwaukee @ Toronto

Playoff Picture: How things stand

Playoff Picture: How things stand

How are the Conference Finals unfolding?

Milwaukee Bucks 2-1 Toronto Raptors

  • Game 1: Raptors 100-108 Bucks | Report | Box Score
  • Game 2: Raptors 103-125 Bucks | Report | Box Score
  • Game 3: Bucks 112-118 Raptors (2OT) | Report | Box Score
  • Game 4: Bucks @ Raptors, May 22, 1:30am
  • Game 5: Raptors @ Bucks, May 24, 1:30am
  • Game 6 if necessary: Bucks @ Raptors, May 26, 1:30am
  • Game 7 if necessary: Raptors @ Bucks, May 28, 1:30am
  • All games broadcast live on Sky Sports Arena

For Leonard and the Raptors, Monday was all about rest and recovery.

Coming off a season in which he sat out 22 regular-season games and never played on back-to-back nights as part of a plan to manage his workload, Leonard played a playoff career-high 52 minutes in Toronto's double-overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates with teammates on the bench during overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks in game three of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 19, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.
Image: A fatigued Leonard celebrates with his Raptors team-mates during overtime in Toronto's Game 3 win

The Raptors cut their deficit to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals, but it may have come at a cost. Leonard battled through both extra sessions while dealing with soreness in his leg. Pascal Siakam also had a long night, playing 51 minutes for Toronto, who will try to even the series in Tuesday's Game 4.

Leonard didn't speak to reporters Monday, but Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the star player isn't injured, just fatigued.

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"The consensus today is he is tired, and he will be ready to go," Nurse said. "Those are kind of the words coming out of his mouth: little tired, but he'll get his rest and he'll be ready."

Leonard played only nine games in 2017-18 because of a quadriceps injury. He was traded from San Antonio to Toronto after that season, and the Raptors made keeping him fresh a priority.

Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors dunks against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals 0:17
Kawhi Leonard flew through the air and slammed home a left-handed dunk late into the second overtime period in Toronto's Game 3 win

He acknowledged feeling sore after scoring 36 points in Game 3, including eight in the second overtime, but insisted he'd be ready to go on Tuesday.

The Bucks are still expecting Leonard to be at his best.

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"He's going to shoot with one, two, sometimes even three or four guys on him," Milwaukee's Khris Middleton said. "I keep saying this over and over: He's a great player. You can't stop great players. You can only make it tough on them."

Leonard isn't just an offensive force. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, he helped limit Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo to 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting in Game 3.

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks handles the ball against Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals 1:46
Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 12 points in their Game 3 win in double-overtime

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry called Leonard "probably the best two-way basketball player in the NBA".

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was asked on Monday whether his team might fare better in Game 4 with Leonard battling fatigue.

"I don't know that we can go any harder at Kawhi than we are," Budenholzer said. "We've been throwing a lot at Kawhi, and we'll continue to do that."

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors defend their positions during Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2019 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin 0:35
Kawhi Leonard goes head to head with Giannis Antetokounmpo live on Sky Sports Arena in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals

Sunday's Game 3 marked the sixth time in 15 playoff games with Toronto that Leonard has scored 35 points or more.

That gives Leonard as many 35-point games in the playoffs as former Raptors stars Vince Carter and DeMar DeRozan combined. Carter (15 career playoff games with the Raptors) and DeRozan (51) each had three such games.

Watch Bucks @ Raptors Game 4 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Wednesday morning (1:30am).

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