Title: Kawhi Leonard’s career night against Jazz a picture of casual dominance
Date: January 1, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Kawhi Leonard’s career night against the Jazz. He’s good.
There seems to be something about New Year’s Day in Toronto.
On the one-year anniversary of DeMar DeRozan breaking the Raptors franchise record with 52 points against the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard set a career-best of his own, dominating the Utah Jazz to the tune of 45 points to help the Raptors to a 122-116 victory. That the two stars will face off for the first time since they were traded for each other this offseason in two days time couldn’t be more fitting, nor could their career nights being tied together by the calendar.
There is perhaps a deeper layer, too. DeRozan’s 52 standing out as the high-water mark in the team’s history speaks to his legacy being the greatest of any Raptor career to date. At the same time, Leonard’s somehow feels larger despite being only in the top-10 most prolific outputs in Raptor lore, maybe not more important but more indicative of where the Raptors are and where they are going. Without Kyle Lowry for the eighth time in nine games, Leonard completely took over and carried the offence. That’s not what he’ll be tasked with in an ideal postseason scenario, but the fact that he still appears to be finding his place and his groove and his rhythm in these new surroundings — with a theoretical Lowry return ahead — speaks to enormous upside for this Raptors unit.