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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Kawhi Leonard cold-blooded approach has the Toronto Raptors one win away from an NBA title

For a time it appeared that Kawhi Leonard was the only member of the Toronto Raptors that showed up for Game 4.

While Leonard was sensational from the opening tip, nobody else could buy a bucket as everyone else in a red jersey combined to shoot just 1-13 from the floor in the first quarter. Fortunately for the Raptors' faithful, Leonard scored 14 points in the opening frame to keep it close.

When Leonard cooled off in the second quarter, it looked like it might get out of hand. Somehow, despite Leonard going scoreless and missing all four of his shots, the Raptors managed to win the second quarter. It was a carbon copy of Game 3 in which the Raptors won the second period despite a scoreless frame from their superstar.

Then came the onslaught.

Over the years it's been the Golden State Warriors that have famously used the third quarter as their springboard towards blowouts. It's typically when the Warriors are at their best, uncorking haymakers and burying opponents beneath a tidal wave of 3-pointers, fastbreaks and suffocating D.

On Friday, it was Leonard and the Raptors who flipped the script and delivered the knockout blow.

MORE: How the Raptors moved to within one win of winning the whole thing

In potentially the final game ever in Oracle Arena, Toronto outscored its hosts 37-21 with Leonard pouring in 17, the same number of points as the Splash Brothers combined.

He kept them close early then delivered the decisive haymaker, something he's been doing now the entire postseason. And he does it without ever losing focus.

There are no histrionics. No boisterous claims. No passionate displays of emotion. Just all business, all the time.

That poise and composure has rubbed off on everyone in the locker room, even after what's to date the biggest road win in franchise history. The scene in the visitors' locker room moments after stepping on the floor was quiet and reserved, perhaps a few small smiles, but no signs of premature celebrating.

MORE: Was this goodbye for Oracle Arena?

It all comes back to Leonard with his ice cold personality manifested in how he routinely delivers behind enemy lines.

This marked Leonard's eighth 30-point game on the road this postseason, one shy of the most ever by any player in a single postseason.

Most 30-pt Playoff Games on Road
Postseason Player Games
2009 Kobe Bryant 9
2019 Kawhi Leonard 8
2017 LeBron James 8
2010 Kobe Bryant 8

Leonard's efficiency is as ice cold as his demeanor, and it speaks to his ability to rise to the occasion on the road.

He once again shot 50% from the floor while burying all nine of his shots from the charity stripe. Leonard is in the midst of one of the most efficient extended postseason runs in the history of the game as he's on the verge of joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to reach the Finals while scoring over 30 a game with a true shooting percentage over 60%.

He's able to do that in part because he doesn't press. Even in the most desperate and chaotic moments, he's impossible to speed up and he doesn't give into the temptation that so many superstars do, which is to rush bad shots in hopes of willing the ball in.

MORE: Odds, picks for Game 5

Game 5 won't be easy. The Warriors won't roll over and Kevin Durant could very well make his return. Given the stakes and the starpower on the other side, they'll be the temptation to want it so bad, to outshine everyone and act uncharacteristically.

From what we've learned about Leonard over the last two months, he's the last person anyone should expect to panic come clinching time.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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