Fuelled by strong play from Kawhi Leonard as the Raptors were able to weather the Sixers’ storm and come out on top in emphatic fashion.
Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas added 23 points off the bench as the Toronto Raptors defeated the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 129-112 on Tuesday night.
Kyle Lowry added 20 points and 12 assists for his fifth double-double of the season for Toronto, and Pascal Siakam finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Serge Ibaka chipped in with 16 points and eight rebounds, and Danny Green scored 10 points.
It was the sixth straight home victory to open the season for the Raptors, a franchise best. They also have defeated the 76ers in 12 consecutive home games.
Joel Embiid scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Robert Covington added 15 points, JJ Redick had 13 and Mike Muscala scored 12.
Leonard, who was rested Monday in Toronto’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, scored 11 points in the third quarter and the Raptors led by as many as 26 points before taking a 19-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
The 76ers trimmed the lead to nine on Covington’s three-pointer with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter. Embiid’s three-pointer had the lead down to six with 3:30 to play. Ibaka countered with a jump shot, Siakam made a layup, and when Leonard hit a three-pointer with 1:56 to play, Toronto led by 13 and the game was safe.
That’s not to say the Raptors as a whole were the sharpest team out there, they just happened to be together more often than the bumbling Sixers. Toronto had their own bouts of sloppy play — Kyle Lowry stepping on the sideline before a 3, then trying for a charge call; Pascal Siakam running so fast in transition he forgot to pick up the ball; a 26-point third quarter lead that shrunk down to a mere six points late, but with Leonard once again as the great leveler, the Raptors maintained a firm enough grasp on the game to win.
“It’s pretty valuable, right.” began coach Nick Nurse with his assessment of Leonard’s much-needed value in defense. “It’s similar to his offense. He can score with the ball, he can score without it, he can score in or out and he can kind of do the same on defense. He can guard the ball, he can guard people coming off pin-downs, he can guard guys on the post.
“But mostly, I think it’s just his natural instinct for getting his hands on stuff. The ball’s popping around and, boom, he comes out of there with it any variety of ways. Post feeds, cross-court passes, pocket passes.”
Leonard would go on to finish the game with 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He grabbed seven rebounds, dished four assists, and clawed out four steals, at least one of which was particularly humiliating, grabbing the ball right out of the hands of his opponent. If nothing else, all of Kawhi’s steals clearly rattled Simmons.
Next up for the Raptors is a match up against Phoenix Suns on Thursday.