Kawhi Leonard star of the show as Toronto Raptors win again
Raptors star Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points as Toronto overcame the absence of all-star guard Kyle Lowry to beat the struggling Cavaliers, 106-95.
Lowry, who leads the NBA in assists, was a late withdrawal with a back injury, missing his first game of the season. The Raptors did not provide any details about his condition.
Fred VanVleet also scored 15 points for Toronto. Winning their eighth consecutive contest and improved to a league best 20-4 record. They are 10-2 on the road.
The Raptors have reached the 20-win mark quicker than any other team in franchise history.
VanVleet, who started in place of Lowry, drained consecutive clutch three-pointers with just over two minutes left in the fourth to pad the Raptors lead to 10 points.
Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson each scored 18 points for Cleveland. Cavs have now lost their fourth in a row and dropped to 4-18 overall.
Cleveland got George Hill back after the starting guard missed 11 games with a sprained right shoulder. But he only delivered eight points.
After an inefficient first quarter for Kawhi Leonard, the superstar forward settled into a groove before halftime. Going into the break with 17 points.
Leonard would continue to score from all three levels in the second half, leading Toronto with 34 points. It’s the second consecutive game in which the former Finals MVP has managed to hit the 30-point plateau.
While Leonard has had his moments of dominance. It still appears at times he is lacking the instinctive decision-making that helps maximize his unique blend of quickness, strength, and shooting. Perhaps the past two games are an indication of what’s in store on the Kawhi Leonard front.
Fred VanVleet did an adequate job filling in for the veteran floor general- Lowry. Despite being held to a modest stat line of 15 points, four assists, three rebounds.
Delon Wright had perhaps his worst game of the season, quarterbacking a struggling bench unit that continued to look lethargic and disinterested. His -17 plus/minus was a team worst, as he failed to make a positive impact on either end of the floor.
Nick Nurse opted to tighten the rotation as opposed to dispersing Lowry’s minutes to candidates such as Lorenzo Brown and Malachi Richardson. This move paid off down the stretch courtesy of another productive fourth quarter from Fred VanVleet.
Valanciunas finished just 2/5 with 5 points in 18 minutes, a stark contrast to the blistering efficiency that the Raptors have come to expect when JV comes off the bench.
Toronto let Cleveland back in the game with a sloppy late-third. Newly acquired Cavalier Alec Burks was a bright spot for the home team. He scored 13 points. Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson led the way with 18 a piece. While the latter dominated the glass with 19 boards, seven of the offensive variety.
The Raptors once again showed a susceptibility against the mid-range jump shot. An understandable byproduct of a defensive scheme aimed at limiting quality three-point attempts. While they’ve managed to hold opponents to the sixth-lowest field goal percentage from behind the arc.
Things do get much harder for the best team in the East, as they are set to face Denver and Philadelphia at Scotiabank Arena in the looming days.