Leonard leads Rap­tors to 4th straight vic­tory

The Daily Courier - - SPORTS -

TORONTO — As Nick Nurse ex­ited his post-game press con­fer­ence Fri­day, he left with a part­ing com­ment: “Good night for the Rap­tors.”

Kawhi Leonard pro­duced 20 points and 11 re­bounds to lift the Rap­tors to their fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory, a lop­sided 122-105 win over the Brook­lyn Nets.

But the Rap­tors coach was re­fer­ring to other re­sults in the East, par­tic­u­larly a Mil­wau­kee Bucks loss, that com­bined with Toronto’s win vaulted his team back to first place in the con­fer­ence.

Eight Rap­tors scored in dou­ble fig­ures. Pas­cal Si­akam had 16 points, Serge Ibaka chipped in with 14 points and nine boards, OG Anunoby and Nor­man Powell had 13 points apiece, Delon Wright fin­ished with 12, and Fred VanVleet and Greg Mon­roe each had 10 for the Rap­tors (32-12), whose sev­enth straight win at Sco­tia­bank Arena tied their sea­son high.

“We went into this thing as a marathon,” said VanVleet. “We’re about half­way through and start­ing to ramp it up and get a lit­tle more ur­gent about things. I think we’re start­ing to see that.

“We per­formed well for the first half of the year and now we’re try­ing to turn our gears a lit­tle bit, shift and just keep build­ing but get a bit more ur­gency in things we need to get bet­ter at,” added VanVleet.

Leonard scored 20-plus points for a ca­reer-high 18th straight game. But it was the bench that was im­pres­sive, com­bin­ing for 60 points — two shy of the sea­son high.

“Played well,” Kyle Lowry said of the sec­ond unit. “They played with en­ergy, they played ag­gres­sive, they played as­sertive, they played with con­fi­dence. That’s what we needed from them.”

D’An­gelo Rus­sell had 24 points to top the Nets (21-22).

The Nets might be sev­enth in the East, but they ar­rived in Toronto on a hot streak, win­ners of 13 of their pre­vi­ous 17 games.

It was the Rap­tors, how­ever, play­ing the third of a three-game home­s­tand, who were in the driver’s seat for most of the night, shrug­ging off a lack­adaisi­cal first-quar­ter de­fen­sive ef­fort to take a 12-point lead in the sec­ond. By the end of the third quar­ter they led 99-75.

Nurse sat his starters for the fi­nal frame, al­low­ing Leonard and Lowry a rare fourth quar­ter off.

The Nets sliced the Rap­tors’ lead to 13 points with a 12-0 run capped by a Shabazz Napier bas­ket with five min­utes to play. But Toronto re­sponded with an 8-0 run of its own, send­ing fans to the ex­its to beat the rush with a cou­ple of min­utes play.

“They cap­i­tal­ized on our turnovers (17 for 20 points), and they cap­i­tal­ized on our missed shots,” Rus­sell said.

The Rap­tors, who’ve won 13 of their last 14 games against Brook­lyn, shot 45.7 per cent on the night and 31.4 per cent from 3-point range.

The Rap­tors were slug­gish on the de­fen­sive end in the first quar­ter, and paid for it — the Nets shot 60 per cent from be­yond the arc and 50 per cent from the field. Napier’s driv­ing hook shot with 15 sec­onds left in the frame capped a 14-1 run that gave the Nets a nine-point lead. Brook­lyn led 35-28 af­ter one quar­ter.

The Rap­tors bounced back in the sec­ond. VanVleet’s three was the punc­tu­a­tion mark on an 18-4 run that gave Toronto a 12-point ad­van­tage late in the half. They took a 64-53 lead into the half­time break.

The Rap­tors head to Wash­ing­ton to face the Wizards on Sun­day, then bat­tle the Celtics in Bos­ton on Wed­nes­day.

The Cana­dian Press

Toronto Rap­tors guard Kyle Lowry (7) moves around Brook­lyn Nets for­ward DeMarre Car­roll dur­ing sec­ond-half NBA ac­tion in Toronto on Fri­day. The Rap­tors won 122-105.

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