Toronto Star



Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and the first-place Raptors stretched their win streak to eight games with a 106-95 victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. The road gets tougher from here, though,

It doesn’t matter how victory is achieved for the Toronto Raptors, it just matters that it is.

Gone was the sense of energy and urgency and excitement that came with an outing against Golden State on Thursday night, but a win is a win is a win and a grind-it-out, 106-95 triumph in Cleveland on Saturday night counts exactly the same as Thursday’s heartstopp­ing overtime victory over the Warriors.

Kawhi Leonard poured in 34 points — his sixth game this season of 30 or more — as the Raptors overcame a rather listless performanc­e all night to register their eighth consecutiv­e victory. With backcourt sparkplug Kyle Lowry not available, the Raptors slugged it out as best they could, relying on periods of excellent defence to subdue the 4-18 Cavaliers.

As has been their habit a handful of times this year, the Raptors let an opponent back in the game, blowing a big lead and making things unnecessar­ily hard on themselves. Toronto built a 21-point lead in the third quarter on Saturday, but couldn’t bury Cleveland, allowing the Cavaliers to get back within seven with less than four minutes left.

They did, however, manage to put the game away in the final two minutes to run their record to an NBA-best 20-4. Pascal Siakam and Danny Green had 15 points each for Toronto, as did Fred VanVleet, who iced the game with a three-pointer that gave the Raptors a 12-point lead with two minutes left.

Bothersome back: Lowry sat out with what the Raptors termed a “sore back” and it was the first game the all-star point guard has missed this season. Lowry had been averaging 34.1 minutes per game, about two more minutes than in the 201718 season and second on the team to Leonard’s 34.2, but Leonard had played in five fewer contests. There was no immediate word on whether or not Lowry will miss more time. His spot in the starting lineup was taken by VanVleet.

Firing it up: The Raptors went into the game as the best three- point shooting team in the NBA over the last five games. They were shooting 41.5 per cent from long range and went 6for-25 (24 per cent) on Saturday night.

This and that: Toronto had lost 11 of its last 12 games in Cleveland, and the only win came on a night when LeBron James rested … Siakam has scored 20 points or more in seven games this season. He had 20-plus once in his first two seasons combined … C.J. Miles, who sat out the entire second half of games against Memphis and Golden State, played in the third and fourth quarters.

á Up next: Another tough home test as the Denver Nuggets and Kitchener product Jamal Murray pay their only visit of the regular season to Scotiabank Arena on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

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 ?? TONY DEJAK THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson loses the handle under pressure from Raptor Danny Green in Saturday night’s game.
TONY DEJAK THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson loses the handle under pressure from Raptor Danny Green in Saturday night’s game.

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