Leonard’s brilliance brings back T.O. memories
Kawhi Leonard is in the midst of one of the great Toronto playoff performances in recent memory.
The Raptors star is averaging 38 points on 62 per cent shooting in an Eastern Conference semifinal tied at 2-2 after Leonard’s 39-point effort in Toronto’s Game 4 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
But individual success tends to be more memorable if a team goes on a lengthy playoff run — so how Toronto as a whole performs over the next two or three games will play a big role in determining where Leonard’s superb run ranks in the city’s sporting history.
Here’s a look at some previous Toronto athletes who delivered outstanding individual efforts on the way to noteworthy team success — at least an appearance in a league semifinal.
DOUG GILMOUR, 1992-93 MAPLE LEAFS
In a year in which fellow Kingston, Ont., native and longtime hockey commentator Don Cherry referred to him as the best player in the world, Gilmour played that way for much of the Leafs’ improbable playoff run.
The diminutive centre had 10 goals and 25 assists in 21 playoff games as the Leafs played three seven-game series — beating the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues before falling to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the conference final at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Gilmour finished second in playoff scoring with a Leafs record 35 points, five behind Gretzky, who played three more games.
Some Toronto fans remain bitter about a play Game 6 when Gretzky cut Gilmour’s chin with a high stick, with no penalty called in overtime. Gretzky proceeded to score the winner.
Among Gilmour’s highlights were the tying goal late in Game 7 against the Red Wings, a wraparound double overtime winner in Game 1 against St. Louis, a three-point effort in Game 7 versus the Blues and a two-goal, two-assist night during a win over L.A. in Game 1.
PAUL MOLITOR, 1993 BLUE JAYS
While Roberto Alomar’s home run off Dennis Eckersley was the signature moment of the Blue Jays’ 1992 World Series run and Joe Carter’s walkoff shot off Mitch Williams to win in 1993 was the most dramatic moment in team history, one can make a strong argument that nobody performed better than Molitor for an entire Toronto baseball post-season run.
The veteran hit .447 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in the 93′ playoffs as the Jays beat the Chicago White Sox in the American League championship series and the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. He was named World Series MVP after batting .500 against Philly.
DOUG FLUTIE, 1996 ARGONAUTS
In his first year with the Argos, the quarterback guided Toronto to a 15-3 record before two excellent performances in the playoffs.
The Boston College product was 30-of-38 for 381 passing yards with a touchdown pass and two rushing majors as the Argos crushed the visiting Montreal Alouettes 43-7 in the East final.
Flutie then was Grey Cup MVP as he led Toronto to a thrilling 43-37 win over the Edmonton Eskimos in a snowstorm in Hamilton. He passed for 302 yards and rushed for 98 more.
Flutie guided the Argos to another Grey Cup in 1997 before leaving for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
CURTIS JOSEPH, 2001-02 MAPLE LEAFS
The goaltender was a standout in runs to the conference finals in 1999 and 2002 with the Leafs.
In the latter year, his stats were slightly better — a .914 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average in 20 outings — as a Leafs team missing star Mats Sundin for 12 contests advanced to Game 6 of the league semifinals against the Carolina Hurricanes before being ousted.
JOSE BAUTISTA, 2015 BLUE JAYS
Bautista’s bat-flip home run off Sam Dyson of the Texas Rangers sent the Rogers Centre into a frenzy in the fifth and final game of the AL division series, giving the Blue Jays a lead they would not relinquish.
The outfielder then gave the Blue Jays a shot in a must-win Game 6 of the ALCS, hitting two home runs before Toronto ultimately lost against the Kansas City Royals.
Bautista finished the playoffs hitting .293 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.
JOSH DONALDSON, 2016 BLUE JAYS
The third baseman gave the Jays a dramatic win in the ALDS against Texas, hustling home from second after a throwing error by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, a play affectionately known as the Donaldson dash.
Donaldson hit .417 in a playoff run which ended with a five-game loss to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS.
JOZY ALTIDORE, 2017 TORONTO FC
The American international teamed with Sebastian Giovinco to lead TFC to its first MLS Cup.
Altidore scored the lone goal in a two-game aggregate conference final win over Columbus before opening the scoring in a 2-0 win over visiting Seattle in the MLS Cup.
Altidore was named MLS Cup MVP.
© 2019 The Canadian Press