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Kawhi Leonard, Clippers stretch Raptors shedding streak to 4 video games Categorical Occasions

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The celebrities have been out in full drive on Friday night time in Toronto, however most of them weren’t taking part in for the Raptors.

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Conquering hero Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Paul George and Russell Westbrook — who’ve two league MVP awards and 35 all-star appearances between them — have been an excessive amount of for a younger, beaten-up Raptors squad at present full of gamers but to make an all-star group, although Scottie Barnes has a shot at his first this yr. Toronto fell 127-107 to slide to 16-29.

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The Raptors really made it a sport in opposition to a Clippers group that had one in every of its worst taking pictures nights of the season, forcing head coach Ty Lue to play lots of his starters into the ultimate minutes an evening earlier than a attainable NBA Finals preview in Boston in opposition to the Celtics. Leonard was performed by that time although, having scored 16 in his half-hour.

Harden had a 22-point triple-double, George scored 21, Westbrook 20. Ex-Raptor Norman Powell added 17, together with 4 late to erase any doubt of a Raptors miracle comeback.

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Barnes had 23, however struggled till the fourth quarter sans Leonard, RJ Barrett had 22 and the Raptors shot simply 20.7% from three. L.A. shot 29% from outdoors, however feasted inside, amassing 66 factors within the paint.

Leonard didn’t actually present his previously adoring followers what they have been lacking a lot — he was double-teamed usually and had a largely quiet night — however there have been flashes right here and there from a participant who has been absolutely again in type this season, averaging profession highs in area purpose and three-point taking pictures percentages. And if anybody must be reminded of Leonard’s capabilities, all they should do is look to the rafters of Scotiabank Enviornment on the NBA championship banner commemorating the title he was most liable for bringing north of the border.

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Leonard mentioned afterward he heard the applause from these available when he was launched: “Yeah for positive. All people know what I performed right here, how particular that yr was and so they’re very grateful for it,” Leonard mentioned. “So, yeah, each time I come I get reward.”

Los Angeles is now 29-14, good for fourth within the deep and spectacular Western Convention. The Harden commerce has been a hit. Westbrook has thrived as a sixth man. There have been sufficient pictures for all, someway. If they will keep wholesome, the group has every little thing it must vie for a title (and a 3rd Finals MVP for Leonard, if that occurs).

Leonard improved to 15-2 all-time in opposition to Toronto, among the finest marks by any participant ever. Had Leonard caught across the Raptors nonetheless could be competing for rings as a substitute of ping pong balls. With out Jakob Poeltl and Immanuel Quickley the group barely regarded prefer it belonged in the identical league because the Clippers for a lot of Friday night time. Which is smart, contemplating the expertise and depth of the L.A. roster.

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Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic had posited the sport as an opportunity for his Raptors to be challenged. “An amazing alternative to go over there and play in opposition to one of the best on this planet and see the place you’re at.” Nicely, proper now Toronto’s on the backside of the NBA standings, or shut sufficient. If Toronto performed within the West, the season would already be over. The East isn’t as spectacular and Quickley and Poeltl will stabilize issues (35 year-old veteran Thad Younger was Toronto’s best participant on the night time, which isn’t factor), however there are going to be many lengthy nights within the subsequent few months. Nonetheless, they competed laborious and there have been some positives, which Rajakovic famous afterward.

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It was a reunion sport for extra causes than simply Kawhi being on the town. Powell had a powerful profession with the Raptors earlier than being dealt for Gary Trent Jr., and the Clippers roster additionally contains two-time Raptor PJ Tucker. Plus Raptors level guard Dennis Schroder beforehand performed with Paul George and Westbrook and Bruce Brown performed with Harden.

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Rajakovic coached Westbrook, Harden and George.

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Rajakovic mentioned the accidents hitting the group (backup centre Jontay Porter needed to go away after solely 4 minutes as a result of eye situation that had been bothering him) and the way it might influence issues transferring ahead. “Subsequent man up goes to be the mentality. We nonetheless have 15 gamers accessible for the sport tonight. Clearly, with Quickley being out tonight, we’re gonna go a special route and get one other participant there who’s gonna begin as a substitute of him and see what we have now, proceed to construct,” Rajakovic mentioned. Younger and Brown received the decision and each performed properly. It’s attainable each may very well be passed by the Feb. 8 commerce deadline, together with Gary Trent Jr., who additionally began and scored 13 factors. Chris Boucher, seemingly in his final weeks with the Raptors, scored 9.

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Rajakovic backed Barnes as an all-star. “I positively assume so, I positively assume that he did sufficient this yr to show he’s an all-star participant, I feel that what he does night time in, night time out, on offensive finish, defensive finish places him the class of these guys,” Rajakovic mentioned.

This one received’t assist his trigger although. With Leonard blanketing him for a part of the sport, Barnes struggled, going simply 6-for-18 from the sector earlier than hitting his ultimate three pictures of the sport.

@WolstatSun

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