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Toronto Raptors

As playoffs near, Kawhi Leonard's clutch play pays dividends for Raptors

By now, there is no doubt that Kawhi Leonard is one of the league's best two-way players. Between last week's showing against the Spurs and last night's shot against the Trail Blazers, he's proved time and time again that he is one of the NBA's most clutch players as well.

FIVE TAKEAWAYS: Leonard hits game-winner in thriller vs. Blazers

Last week versus the Spurs, Leonard's go-ahead dunk with 15.1 seconds remaining was his sixth field goal to tie or take the lead with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, tying him with Nets' guard Spencer Dinwiddie for most in the league.

After last night's game-winner to beat the Blazers, Leonard passed Dinwiddie to become the outright leader in that same category.

For perspective - the likes of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Luka Doncic and Bradley Beal have only connected on five.

Most FGM to tie or take the lead, final minute of 4th or OT
Player FGM FGA FG%
Kawhi Leonard 7 14 50.0%
Spencer Dinwiddie 6 14 42.9%
Evan Fournier 5 9 55.6%
Joe Harris 5 9 55.6%
Kyrie Irving 5 9 55.6%
Blake Griffin 5 10 50.0%
James Harden 5 10 50.0%
Luka Doncic 5 10 50.0%
Devin Booker 5 10 50.0%
Bradley Beal 5 11 45.5%
Zach LaVine 5 18 27.8%

NBA.com Stats defines Clutch Time as a period "during the 4th quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes remaining, and neither team ahead by more than five points." Of players that have been in at least five such situations this season, Leonard and Kemba Walker's 5.0 points in clutch-time is tied for second in the league trailing only Victor Oladipo (5.1).

Among the top-10 scorers in Clutch Time, only Irving (53.3 percent) and Oladipo (63.2 percent) have done so at a more efficient rate than Leonard's 50.6 percent field goal shooting.

After missing 73 games in the 2017-18 season, Leonard's re-emergence as one of the league's most clutch players is a large part of the reason that the Raptors have been able to reach new heights; Toronto is currently 13-6 (68.4 percent) in games decided by five points or less whereas last season, the team was 15-12 (55.6 percent).

With 19 games remaining in the regular season, the Raptors sit at No. 2 in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-17.

As the playoffs near, Leonard's role as a clutch performer could allow the Raptors to continue to reach new heights. History supports that having an efficient go-to guy in clutch situations is often the difference between an early exit and a deep postseason run.

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