Kawhi Leonard billboard perfectly predicted what he’d do in Oakland

The superstar has been lovingly dubbed the ‘King of The North’ by the mushrooming number of Raptors fan

A billboard strategically placed near Oracle Arena had warned the Warriors what was coming.

It was a clever New Balance ad that went up ahead of Games 3 and 4 of a stone-faced Kawhi Leonard, arms crossed, alongside the slogan “The King of the North is Coming.”

READ MORE: Raptors a win away from NBA title after beating Warriors 105-92

He more than lived up to the promise.

The superstar, lovingly dubbed the “KOTN” by the mushrooming number of Raptors fans, led Toronto to two wins against the two-time defending champs on their home floor with the chilling demeanour of an assassin.

Then the Raptors flew home Saturday leaving a trail of destruction in the Bay Area.

Now the Raptors can capture their first NBA title in the team’s 24-year franchise history and bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Canada for the first time with a victory at home on Monday. Leonard will have orchestrated the stunning end of Golden State’s dynasty. He would be named Finals MVP for his efforts.

“It’s not over yet,” Leonard said after Friday’s 105-92 victory. “It doesn’t matter until you get that fourth win.”

The 27-year-old, who earned MVP honours in the 2014 Finals with San Antonio, is averaging 30.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in the Finals, and 31.1 points and 9.1 boards over the four playoff rounds.

Leonard’s 36 points on Friday marked his 14th game of the post-season with 30-plus points. The only other players to reach 14 were Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Hakeem Olajuwon and Allen Iverson.

Jordan and Olajuwon are tied for the most 30-point games with 16.

The statistics are on the Raptors’ side. Teams that take a 3-1 lead in the Finals have a 33-1 series record — 97.1 per cent. The only time a team with a 3-1 record did not win the Finals was 2016, when Cleveland rallied to beat Golden State.

Friday’s win was a snapshot of Leonard’s might. Trailing for most of the first half, he knocked down a pair of three-pointers to start the third quarter before many fans were back in their seats from the break. Nothing special was said at halftime. Leonard would say later that “I had faith it was going to turn around.”

“Kawhi Leonard came out and hit two big eff-you shots to start the half,” Fred VanVleet said. “There’s no defence for that. There’s no schemes for that. That’s two big-boy shots.”

Nurse is never surprised when Leonard’s big shots fall.

“He’s a really, really good shooter,” the coach said. ”When he vaults up from three with space, you’re pretty surprised when it doesn’t go in because he’s got great mechanics, he’s usually got it on line.”

With his monotone demeanour, Leonard has been portrayed as sub-human in these playoffs. A video of him leaving Norm Powell hanging with an outstretched fist for a knuckle bump had Raptors fans roaring. Cue the cyborg comparisons.

Before Game 4, Warriors star Draymond Green had been asked how one rattles Leonard?

Green prompted laughter when he said “rattle” isn’t a word in the Warriors’ scouting report of Leonard.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to rattle Kawhi,” Green said.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri took a huge risk when he traded away DeMar DeRozan for Leonard after he’d played just nine games in San Antonio last season because of a quadriceps injury. His split with the Spurs was messy, he wasn’t with the team during the post-season.

Leonard was questioned earlier this week if any lingering backlash from last season would affect his legacy.

“I’ve never been one of those guys that growing up in high school getting all the media and the college media, so I don’t really think my legacy is going to ever reach the potentials of Michael Jordan and how the media followed them since they were a rookie,” Leonard said.

“I just want to play and just let people remember that I played hard at both ends of the floor, I was a winner, and that’s basically it. I’m just here enjoying my dream, having fun.”

There’s been a groundswell of support for the Raptors in the past few weeks as their historic run is celebrated coast to coast. Hundreds of Raptors fans were at Oracle Arena on Friday night, serenading the players with an impromptu singing of “O Canada” as they walked off the court. Across the country, fans attended viewing parties. Jurassic Park was nuts.

“It’s awesome,” Nurse said. ”Our fans travel really well in the regular season. We get this a lot on the road. It’s really amazing. It’s Canada’s team, and Canadians from all over the country are travelling down and making plans when we play in Florida or California or Detroit especially. You ought to see a Detroit game. It’s really something in there.

“Surprises me a little in The Finals because I don’t think it’s that easy to get tickets to these games, so our fans are working extra hard and being extra vocal, and we appreciate that.”

Leonard, who’s lived in Canada for all of 10 months, was asked the impact an NBA championship will have north of the border. He answered in typical deadpan fashion.

“I guess you really would have to ask somebody on the street or one of our fans. I’m pretty sure it’s a long time waiting,” Leonard said. ”They’re going to be excited. They’re already excited just as us just being here for the first time. They’re going crazy after the Eastern Conference Finals and — I don’t know, there’s no telling.

“We’ll see.”

Indeed we likely will.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kelowna Rocket invited to Hockey Canada National Under-17 Development Camp

The 16-year-old was selected by the Rockets 18th overall at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft

Kelowna RCMP serve up slices and support for Special Olympics B.C.

Last years inaugural campaign raised more than $12,000

Car window smashed with a bike in Kelowna

A staffer working in the area on the incident says vandalism is a reoccurring problem

Kelowna Mayor’s walking tour of Rutland cancelled

Growing issues surrounding supportive housing leads to rescheduled meeting with concerned resident

Kelowna RCMP net traffickers in undercover op

The RCMP reported dozens of arrests in the investigation

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

UPDATED: Highway 97 closed near Penticton closed until at least 10 p.m.

Accident closes highway in both directions; reopening expected at 10 p.m.

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Vernon artist featured at Kelowna exhibit

Mariel Belanger one of three female indigenous artists

Hergott: Moral obligations and your will

Lawyer Paul Hergott discusses wills and moral obligation

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Rain delays repair of Shuswap road damaged in mudslide

Seymour Arm forest service road not expected to reopen until early next week

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Alleged Okanagan shoplifter tracked down by RCMP

Vernon retail store’s loss prevention officer’s description of suspect helps lead to arrest

Most Read