Phil Handy recently spoke about Kawhi Leonard deciding to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo after the Raptors were down 0-2 in 2019.
The 2019 eastern conference finals were one of the best playoff series of all time. Kawhi had his first year with the Toronto Raptors. On the other side, Giannis was coming off an MVP season with the Bucks, who were also the top seed in the NBA with an impressive 60 wins.
Since the Bucks were the top seed, they had home-court heading into the series. The Bucks defended their home court with a comfortable win in Game one. They followed this up with a dominating Game two win as well.
Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged a double-double with 27.5 PPG and 15.5 RPG on a 47.2% shooting from the field in the first 2 games of the conference finals.
However, the tide turned when the basketball action shifted to the Air Canada Centre, which saw the Raptors beat the Bucks in four consecutive matches and make their NBA Finals debut.
Leonard was a major reason for this turnaround as he averaged 29.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 2.2 SPG. The 2x NBA champion was sensational on both ends of the floor.
Kawhi Leonard shuts down Giannis’ golden run in the 2019 eastern conference finals
The Toronto Raptors figured a way to contain the Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo after their defeat in the first 2 games of the Conference Finals.
The difference was Kawhi who decided to guard the Greek Freak, Game 3 onwards. The change in strategy saw Giannis cripple under the force of the Klaw. There was a visible drop in the Bucks star’s PPG post Game three.
Teeing up Game 3 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals between the Raptors and Bucks on @Sportsnet at 8 PM EST.
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) April 3, 2020
Giannis would go on to average 20.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 5.5 APG in the next four games. The Buck star was also a dismal 35.7% from beyond the arc and 47.2% from the free-throw line.
During the 1st three games, Giannis had 9 points in the 60 possessions that Kawhi guarded him. The Bucks had 55 points during those instances. This set the tone for the next games as the Greek Freak could not figure out a way to get past the Klaw.
Kawhi would go on to lead the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship in 2019. Leonard was also crowned Finals MVP for the 2nd time in his career.