Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and the Toronto Raptors moved to the brink of their first NBA title Friday by beating defending champion Golden State Warriors 105-92 in the NBA Finals.
Serge Ibaka netted 20 points off the bench and Pascal Siakam added 19 for the Raptors, who grabbed a commanding 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series, which could end with game five Monday in Toronto.
The Raptors are one victory shy of the first crown in their 24-season history while the Warriors seek their third consecutive title and fourth in five seasons.
“Just (got to) be patient, come in focused and ready to play defense and make some shots,” Leonard said. “As long as we win, I’m satisfied.”
Only once in 34 chances in NBA Finals history has a team rallied from 3-1 down to win the title, that being in 2016 when LeBron James led Cleveland back to defeat the Warriors.
Leonard, who grabbed 12 rebounds in the game, scored 17 points in the third quarter when Toronto seized command, while Ibaka and Siakam’s second-half surge helped ensure Golden State did not overtake them late.
The Warriors welcomed back guard Klay Thompson, averaging 19.5 points a game, who missed game three with a left hamstring strain, and reserve forward Kevon Looney, who had been declared done for the series due to a chest injury.
But the Warriors remained without playoff scoring leader Kevin Durant, out the past month with a right calf injury, and lacking him they were no match for the fast-moving Raptors.
Leonard opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving the Raptors their first lead at 48-46.
Toronto closed the third quarter with a 20-6 run to seize a 79-67 lead entering the fourth quarter, Leonard scoring 11 and Ibaka adding seven in the pivotal span.
The Warriors got within 97-89 on a Curry 3-pointer with 2:56 remaining but came no closer.