Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas (17) battles Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson (13) for the loose ball during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Kawhi Leonard scores 24 as Raptors beat Cavs 116-104

Prize acquisition sparkles in debut for Toronto

TORONTO — A new superstar, a new head coach, and a victory for the new-look Raptors to open what’s been one of the most-anticipated NBA regular seasons for Toronto in awhile.

Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s prized off-season acquisition, had 24 points and 13 rebounds in his first real game as a Raptor, while Kyle Lowry had 27 points and eight assists, and Toronto beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-104 on Wednesday.

Fred VanVleet added 14 points, while Pascal Siakam finished with 13 on a night that marked Nick Nurse’s first game as Toronto’s head coach.

Kevin Love led the Cavs with 21 points, while Cedi Osman added 17. Canadian Tristan Thompson grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.

Leonard was playing his first regular-season action since Jan. 13 — the two-time defensive player of the year missed all but nine games because of a quadriceps injury in a bizarre season last year in San Antonio. The 27-year-old missed his first three shots before Lowry gave up an easy basket for a pass to the trailing Leonard four minutes into the game.

Jonas Valanciunas had six points to go with 12 boards, but it was his passing — including a beautiful behind-the-back bounce pass to OG Anunoby for a dunk — that delighted the crowd.

The Raptors took a 90-75 lead into the fourth quarter. Three straight baskets by Jordan Clarkson pulled the Cavs within nine points. VanVleet scored seven consecutive points to put the brakes on Cleveland’s run, and when Serge Ibaka drilled a three-pointer with 7:29 to play, it put the Raptors up by 12 in front of a capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,915 that included former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour.

RELATED: Lowry tossed as Raptors dump Nets 118-91

The Cavs sliced the deficit to seven points with 3:08 to play. A Siakam block created a couple of free throws for Leonard at the other end — during which a handful of fans chanted “M-V-P!” — and the Raptors led by 10 with two-and-a-half minutes to play and never looked back.

The game was a bit of revenge for the Raptors after being ousted by Cleveland in three consecutive post-season runs. The second-round sweep last spring was the final straw for team president Masai Ujiri, who fired coach Dwane Casey and then unceremoniously jettisoned DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the Spurs for Leonard and Green.

The anticipation of a fresh start was palpable in the arena, and when Leonard was announced during the glitzy pre-game introductions, the crowd’s roar drowned out the public address.

Green took centre-court for the traditional regular-season address, telling the crowd “I feel a warm welcome when I step in here.”

Nine of the top 10 Twitter trends in Toronto during the game were Raptors-related.

If there was a negative on the night, it’s that the Raptors lost Anunoby early in the fourth quarter with an orbital contusion. Delon Wright (strained groin) didn’t dress.

Neither team led by more than four points in a tight first quarter, and a layup by Green with five seconds on the clock send the Raptors into the second with a 28-25 lead.

The Raptors started to find a rhythm in the second, and a turnaround fadeaway jumper by Leonard capped a 20-7 run and gave Toronto a 13-point lead with 2:42 left in the quarter. The Raptors went into the halftime break up 60-47.

Lowry and Leonard combined for 18 points in the third quarter, and Lowry’s three with 4:25 to play in the quarter gave the Raptors a 20-point lead, their biggest of the game.

The Raptors host the Boston Celtics on Friday then fly to Washington to face the Wizards — last season’s first-round post-season opponent — on Saturday.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

NBA

 

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) moves pass Cleveland Cavaliers guard David Nwaba (12) to score in the final seconds of the first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Just Posted

Steven Puhallo, Jordan Carr, and Taylor Verrall, members of Rishi Sharma’s campaign team, show their solidarity with Sharma (second from right) after an unidentified man hurled racial slurs at him Saturday. Puhallo and Verrall were also present during the incident Saturday night at the corner of Marigold Road and Interurban Road. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
BC Liberal candidate in Saanich South attacked with racial slurs

Rishi Sharma was putting up election signs when incident happened Saturday night

Roller Skate Victoria shoots their version of a viral TikTok video. (Roller Skate Victoria/Facebook)
WATCH: Victoria rollerskate school brings #cranberrydreams with new video

Roller Skate Victoria joins many others in imitating viral TikTok video

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan poses with members of the public during a ‘mainstreeting’ campaign stop Sunday, Oct. 18, at Parksville Community Park. (Peter McCully/Black Press)
‘Buy a boat,’ premier advises anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation, cancer centre, long-term care with News Bulletin

Who knew Snakes and Ladders would be such an emotional rollercoaster? (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Simpson: Snakes and Ladders full of ups and downs

Board games produce big feelings in little people

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay. (News Bulletin file photo)
‘Buy a boat,’ Horgan advises anti-maskers on BC Ferries

NDP leader John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

Michael Friesen, 38, is a Caucasian man standing 6’1” and weighing approximately 220 pounds. (VicPD handout)
VicPD seeking man believed to be ‘actively evading police detection’

Michael Friesen wanted on an unendorsed warrant for various offences

Saanich police warning residents to be aware of a non-aggressive bear sighting in the 400-block of Haliburton Terrace. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Non-aggressive bear spotted in Saanich neighbourhood

Saanich police advise residents, parents to be aware of sighting

The Village on Third won the VIREB Commercial Building award of excellence in the apartment category. (Photo submitted)
New buildings in Nanaimo win awards as best in the region

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s Commercial Building Awards were presented Sept. 30

Nearly 70 survey respondents said they left kitchen while cooking, as fires are most likely to start in kitchens, according to a national insurance supplier. (Pixabay)
Home fires most likely to start in kitchen, according to insurance providers

Nearly 70 survey respondents said they left kitchen while cooking

Sean Hayes displays the trophy and pro circuit plaque after winning Strongman Nationals in Quebec City. At left is his girlfriend, Kayla Russman-Walberg. Photo supplied
Courtenay strongman enters professional ranks of powerlifting

Sean Hayes wins strongman competition in Quebec City

Nanaimo singer Elise Boulanger releases her new single, ‘Cigarettes et rosé’ on Oct. 11. (Photo courtesy Laura Baldwinson)
Nanaimo singer releasing new single inspired by overheard conversations

Elise Boulanger to unveil ‘Cigarettes et rosé,’ accompanying ukulele tutorial video to come

Most Read