Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Take 2-1 Series Lead over Magic with 98-93 Game 3 Win

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2019

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard, right, looks looks for a shot as he is defended by Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon during the first half in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors grabbed a 2-1 series lead over the Orlando Magic with a 98-93 victory in Game 3 on Friday in Orlando.

Pascal Siakam led the way for the Raptors with 30 points and 11 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard contributed 16 points and 10 boards.

Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort for the Magic.

Siakam Much More Than NBA's Most Improved Player

Third-year forward Pascal Siakam appears to be the favorite for the 2018-19 Most Improved Player award following a breakout regular season. Now that the postseason has arrived, he is showing his true value.

Siakam entered 2018-19 with career averages of 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He took a big step forward by establishing new career highs in scoring (16.9), rebounds (6.9) and assists (3.1).

John Schuhmann of NBA.com noted that Siakam had the third-biggest increase in points plus rebounds plus assists per game this season at 13.1.

Even those numbers don't show how valuable he is to the Raptors. Game 3 did, though.

Siakam has been one of Toronto's most consistent players this postseason, entering play Friday averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. As Leonard struggled with his shot most of the night, Siakam guided the Raptors to victory.

The 6'9", 230-pound big man made 13 of 20 shots (3-of-4 from beyond the arc) in recording a game-high 30 points in 42 minutes. He scored 12 in the opening quarter.

Siakam's big night grabbed the attention of Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady:

When the Raptors needed a big play late, Siakam helped to hold off an Orlando rally on both ends of the court. His floater with 93 seconds to play ended a 4-0 Magic spurt and pushed the lead back up to six.

He also played a part in forcing a turnover on the ensuing Orlando possession, which helped close out the victory.

Before Game 3, first-year Toronto coach Nick Nurse made it clear to reporters that he viewed Siakam as the team's second option, not third. Thus far, the Magic have had no answer for him.

FiveThirtyEight's Jared Dubin wrote this week that Siakam—who is making $1.5 million this season—has provided the NBA's best bang for buck, giving the Raptors a surplus value in excess of $35.8 million.

If Toronto is going to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, Leonard will play an important role—but he doesn't have to carry the team by himself. Siakam proved Friday that the Raptors can survive an off night from Leonard and still pull out a win.

         

What's Next

The Magic will try to even the series again in Game 4 at the Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

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