San Antonio Spurs beat Toronto Raptors 125-107 on Leonard’s return
DeMar DeRozan had his first career triple-double with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists as the San Antonio Spurs welcomed back Kawhi Leonard with thunderous jeers in a 125-107 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night.
Leonard scored 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting. But the anger the Spurs’ fans showered on him seemed to impact the MVP candidate. Leonard had to take a step back at the free throw line and compose himself amid chants of “Traitor! Traitor!” and “Quitter! Quitter!” from the capacity crowd that adored him during his seven seasons in San Antonio.
Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio in a trade that yielded DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl from Toronto for Leonard and Danny Green.
Leonard was booed heavily from the moment he walked onto the court for warmup. The boos continued during a pregame video tribute and player introductions. Whenever he touched the ball and as he walked off the court following the lopsided loss.
DeRozan and the Spurs dominated the battle of former teammates. They led by as many as 28 points in snapping the Raptors’ three-game winning streak.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points for San Antonio. While Bryn Forbes added 20, Derrick White 19 and Rudy Gay 13.
The night belonged to DeRozan, though as he became the first San Antonio player with a triple-double at home since Tim Duncan in 2003.
After leading by as many as 26 points in the first half, San Antonio opened the second half on a 12-0 run to take a 79-51 lead.
The crowd erupted during a sequence of plays when Leonard had the ball tipped away. Which led to a slam dunk by White. That possession was followed by Leonard being unable to corral an alley-oop pass. Which led to DeRozan tossing in a runner and being fouled by Serge Ibaka. DeRozan made the free throw amid chants of “MVP! MVP!” -something that Leonard heard during his time in San Antonio.
As the game ended, Gregg Popovich and Leonard embraced in a long hug and the Spurs coach led his former star to San Antonio’s bench to greet assistant coach Ettore Messina.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was pleased with Leonard’s response. As he called him a “super hard worker” who “really works at his game and is commit to winning.”
“He is always locked in,” Nurse said. “He’s one of those guys that when you are in a timeout or a halftime talking, he is looking at you and nodding his head. and as a coach that goes a long way.”
The Spurs played a tribute video for Leonard and Green prior to the game that ended with “Thank you Danny and Kawhi.”. Green ran over to and hugged Popovich prior to tipoff. While Lowry missed his fourth straight game due to lower back pain. The Raptors lost for the first time in that stretch.
Meanwhile, DeRozan is the first Spurs player to have at least 15 points 10 rebounds and five assists in a half since Tim Duncan in 2007. DeRozan also recorded his first double-double in a half. Gay played 23 minutes to Popovich’s surprise, who thought the 13-year veteran would miss the game with a sprained left wrist.
Raptors are at Milwaukee on Saturday night.