Leonard leads Rap­tors to eighth straight win

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - TOM WITHERS

CLEVE­LAND — Down an all-star guard, there was no need for the Toronto Rap­tors to panic.

Not against one of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s worst teams, and not with Kawhi Leonard around.

Leonard scored 34 points, Fred VanVleet added 15 and Toronto ex­tended its win­ning streak to eight games de­spite missing Kyle Lowry with a 106-95 vic­tory over the Cleve­land Cava­liers on Satur­day night.

Danny Green and Pas­cal Si­akam added 15 apiece as the Rap­tors im­proved the league’s best record to 20-4, reach­ing the 20-win mark quicker than at any time in their his­tory. Toronto also is a league-best 10-2 on the road.

Lowry missed his first game this season with an un­spec­i­fied back in­jury.

Rap­tors coach Nick Nurse didn’t pro­vide any de­tails about Lowry’s back other than to say it flared up ear­lier in the day.

Leonard did learn un­til just be­fore tip-off that Lowry, the league’s as­sist leader, wouldn’t play.

“I told him he should have let me know ear­lier be­cause I would have slept 20 more min­utes,” Leonard joked. “I needed that en­ergy tonight.”

VanVleet started in place of Lowry, ran Toronto’s of­fence and or­ga­nized the Rap­tors de­fen­sively. He also made the game’s big­gest shot, drop­ping a back-break­ing three-pointer with 2:08 left to put Toronto up 10.

VanVleet joked that he was the only one happy Lowry didn’t dress.

“I didn’t miss him at all,” he said, chuck­ling. “Any time I can get extra min­utes, and extra shots up, I’m happy.”

Jor­dan Clark­son scored 18 points and Tris­tan Thomp­son had 18 points with 19 re­bounds for the Cavs. They hung around but lost their fourth in a row and dropped to 4-18.

Cleve­land, which sus­tained its worst loss of the season on Fri­day in Bos­ton, did get health­ier as start­ing guard Ge­orge Hill re­turned af­ter missing 11 games with a sprained right shoul­der. Hill scored eight points in 19 min­utes.

Toronto was mak­ing its first visit to Quicken Loans Arena since May, when the Rap­tors were swept in four games by Cleve­land in the East­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals.

Of course that Rap­tors team didn’t have Leonard, who came over in a July trade from San Antonio for DeMar DeRozan and has given Toronto fans hope that this might fi­nally be the year.

“It’s not just Kawhi that makes them dif­fer­ent,” Hill said.

“You get an­other amaz­ing de­fender in Danny Green, a laser three-point shooter in him and they got ex­pe­ri­ence now.

“Los­ing a guy like DeMar is tough, but at the same time, you re­place him with a guy of the same cal­i­bre like Kawhi, but also adding a guy like Danny, who is play­off-tested, cham­pi­onship proven, that just makes them an over­all bet­ter team.”

TONY DE­JAK THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard drives to the bas­ket against Cleve­land’s Tris­tan Thomp­son on Satur­day.

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