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Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard smiles during a team practice for the NBA Finals in Toronto on Saturday, June 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteNathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Kawhi Leonard likely spent a good chunk of the time since the Toronto Raptors’ Game 1 victory over Golden State poring over game film with Kyle Lowry.

The Raptors won their opening game of the NBA finals 118-109 on Thursday despite an off night from Leonard, who faced a kitchen sink of Warriors defenders.

If there’s any player who’s particularly astute about Leonard’s game, it’s Lowry.

“Probably out of everybody who I talk to about film, the most is Kyle,” Leonard said on the eve of Sunday’s Game 2. “Me and him will watch film or talk to each other, see what we are seeing on the floor, either for ourselves or positions to make our teammates better.”

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The 27-year-old Leonard has been having one of the best post-season runs in NBA history, but shot just 5-for-14 for 23 points against the Warriors, who covered him like Saran Wrap with double teams and hard traps.

It seems the two-time reigning NBA champions had been keeping a defensive coverage up their collective sleeve.

“They were in a coverage the other night I had never seen before, which was a switch to a late blitz,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “It was pretty interesting. I had never seen it before and it was innovative. [The Warriors] do a lot of innovative stuff.”

The Warriors forced a Leonard turnover midway through the fourth quarter with this coverage, blitzing the Raptors star after switching on a pick-and-roll. Andre Iguodala scooped up the loose ball and finished with a fast-break dunk.

But the seven-game format of the post-season turns basketball into a chess match. It’s all about the next move.

“They probably got other things we haven’t seen that we’re going to have to adjust to on the fly,” Nurse said.

Leonard, who was the MVP of the 2014 Finals, is having the best post-season of his career. So Nurse isn’t expecting another off-night from his superstar on Sunday.

“I’m expecting him to play a lot better tomorrow,” Nurse said Saturday.

Leonard insisted he doesn’t care whether he’s scoring or not. His only concern is winning.

“If I have my mindset on just trying to score the ball, yeah, it could be difficult. But I’m trying to make the right play out there, and obviously if there are two people on me, somebody is open,” he said. “It’s really not about me. If they play defence like that, guys are going to step up and make shots. All I could do is keep making the right play.”

The Raptors have been asked repeatedly this post-season about Leonard’s unflappable demeanour. His never-too-high, never-too-low approach has trickled down to his teammates, and it was obvious in Thursday’s Finals opener. The biggest moment in franchise history wasn’t too big for this team.

“I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t (rub off on us),” Lowry said. “And also Marc [Gasol] and Danny [Green] and Nick. I think Nick honestly yelled at us twice the whole year. That’s legit: twice the whole year. And that’s a long season to only yell at a team twice. I think that’s just Nick and Kawhi and Marc and Danny — everyone is just kind of going out there and staying even-keeled.”

Leonard’s matter-of-fact disposition had reporters laughing at Saturday’s availability at Scotiabank Arena.

Asked how he responds to trash talk from opponents, he said: “It really doesn’t happen too much. I really can’t say it happens.”

Asked how his icy demeanour affects opponents, he deadpanned: “I’m not sure. I don’t think about what they’re thinking.”

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Plenty of the talk Saturday was also around the strong play of Gasol, who had 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. He knocked down a pair of wide-open three-points shots after hesitating on each for a couple of seconds.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr vowed that won’t happen again.

“That was not the strategy the other night, to let him stand there for six seconds,” Kerr said. “So we would like to be a little sharper with that.”

Gasol, who was acquired at February trade deadline for Toronto’s post-season push, has proved to be a great fit for the Raptors, both on the defensive end and as a scorer and facilitator on offence.

His one blip was a bad game in the conference final versus Milwaukee. But the 34-year-old from Barcelona bounced back with a vengeance.

“I think he got into maybe one of the lowest points of his career in these playoffs,” Nurse said. “He had a 1-for-9 game, people were basically writing him off. We had to get him out of the lineup and not start him. He just didn’t waver at all. It was like ‘Tomorrow, it’s going to be great,’ was his answer.

“I told him several times: ‘You’re a great player because you’ve lifted the level of who our team thinks they can be and you lift the level of other players’ play.’ That to me is what great players do.”

Lowry said he’s developed a great relationship with Gasol on and off the court.

“Marc is pretty easy to get along with. He’s like one of those guys that’s just a true professional. He goes about his business. He does his thing and gets in, gets out. He blends in well. He’s just an easygoing guy, so it’s a lot easier,” Lowry said. “It’s really easy to have a conversation with him and talk to him.

“He just gets on the plane and watches his film and talks about boating and does his thing,” Lowry added with a chuckle.

The series shifts to Oakland, Calif., for Games 3 and 4. A Game 5, if necessary, would be back in Toronto.

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