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Raptors need to leverage Kawhi's presence and start helping themselves

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PHILADELPHIA — There is nothing about Kawhi Leonard that reminds anyone about Cinderella other than the centre of the Toronto Raptors universe comes with an expiration date.

It’s not a specific time on the clock, but the privilege of having access to one of the best playoff performers in NBA history runs out the moment the Raptors season ends. What happens after that? There are no guarantees other than Leonard’s ride won’t be turning into a pumpkin.

He’ll just be free to find a slipper that fits anywhere else – or maybe a pair of flip-flops emblazoned with the Los Angeles Clippers logo.

So Game 4 of the Raptors best-of-seven series against the Philadelphia 76ers is bigger than your average big game. Lose and the Raptors are down 3-1. Teams that are down 3-1 have gone on to lose the series in the NBA about 96 per cent of the time according to WhoWins.com.

Lose the series and the Raptors moment in Kawhi Leonard’s sun may well be over. The Raptors will have gone all in to take advantage of the window to the NBA Finals opened when LeBron James headed west and gotten exactly as far as they have the two previous seasons.

Win Sunday and Toronto’s in a best-of-three series with homecourt advantage. Dreams of an NBA title remain alive, concerns about a post-Kawhi future can be pushed off.

But here’s the conundrum the Raptors are in as they figure out why they largely no-showed – Leonard’s 33-point night the notable exception — against the Sixers in Game 3 and what they need to change going into Game 4:

The solution may lie in........

© Sportsnet