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Leonard can't be Raptors' sole offensive weapon in Conference Finals

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TORONTO – Load management was a sub-plot never far from the surface all season long for the Toronto Raptors. When Kawhi Leonard would play and under what circumstances was the lurking question after he lost nearly an entire season to injury the year before.

But as the buzz from Leonard’s one-of-a-kind game-winner Sunday night – it was the first Game 7 walk-off shot in NBA history – slowly wears off, a different kind of ‘load management’ will likely take centre stage as the Raptors turn their attention to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night.

What is the right load for Leonard to carry offensively? And for how long can he carry what the Raptors have asked him to so far in the post-season?

The euphoria of the moment obscured a fairly salient fact as the Raptors prepare to take on the Bucks: The Raptors offence struggled to score at a steady clip against Philly and became overly reliant on Leonard to save them.

It will likely get more difficult against Milwaukee, who had the NBA’s best defensive rating during the regular season at 104.9 points per 100 possessions and have tightened the screws more in the playoffs, posting a 98.2 mark through two rounds, best among all playoff teams.

Meanwhile the Raptors’ 113.1 offensive rating in the regular season slipped to 111.4 against Orlando in the first round and 106.3 against the Sixers.

As the Raptors offence has struggled, Leonard’s role has increased. Through the regular season Leonard had a usage rate of 30.3 but that has spiked to 34 through 12 playoff starts and all the way to 35.6 against the Sixers. In Game 7 it was 48.1, which means nearly half of every possession Leonard was on the floor for ended with him either shooting, turning the ball over or getting fouled.

It was the highest usage rate of Leonard’s post-season career – he’s never been above 40 per cent before – and his 39 shot attempts was tied for fourth-most of all time, the record belonging to Michael Jordan who took 45 shots on his way to a 55-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in........

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