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Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard credits Raptors effort, aggression and defence in win over Nets

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Kawhi Leonard (NBA Getty Images)

The Raptors are getting hot at the right time.

With a 115-105 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Toronto has won five straight games with just three games remaining in the regular season. All-Star Kawhi Leonard finished the night with 26 points (on 11-for-25 shooting) to go along with nine rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes of action.

After the game, Leonard spoke with TSN 1050 Radio about what it took to earn a win over a Brooklyn team that is fighting for a spot in the playoff picture, crediting Toronto for "coming out playing aggressively the entire game."

Kawhi was markedly more aggressive, taking 25 shots and rising up for three big dunks on the night.

It should come as no surprise that the two-time Defensive Player of the Year made sure to emphasize that defensive effort wins games like these: "Limiting them to one shot - I keep repeating myself, but that's how you win basketball games - giving effort on both ends of the floor."

On a night where the Raptors shot just 41.9 percent from the field, Kawhi was asked what it meant to find a way to win. Naturally, he responded by sharing that "it means that we're putting our hats on, on the defensive end."

Wednesday night marked just the fifth game in the 2018-19 season that Toronto won when shooting under 42 percent from the field - it is now 5-12 in such games, an anomaly for a team that shoots at a 47.3 percent clip on average.

To that point, Leonard shared the formula to winning when the team has subpar shooting nights, sharing that "if you're limiting them to one shot and get a rebound, it's hard to lose a basketball game. We're aggressive, getting to the free throw line, making our free throws and that's what helps us when you have bad shooting games."

MORE: Takeaways from Raptors win over Nets

While Toronto shot just 14 free throws against the Nets - eight fewer than its season average of 22.0 per game - it sank 12 for a conversion rate of 85.7 percent. For the season, the Raptors are just one of five teams that shoot at least 80.0 percent from the line; Toronto's 80.4 percent shooting from the charity stripe is good for fourth in the league.

This season, the Raptors are 27-7 when shooting 23 or more free throws, supporting Leonard's notion that aggression is a major key to this team's success.

With the playoffs looming, Kawhi's understanding of what equates to team success will translate to good things happening for the Raptors.

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