TORONTO — Trailing Toronto 70-62 at the half, the Washington Wizards reeled off a 9-0 run to open the third quarter as the Raptors shot themselves in the foot.
Seven missed shots and two turnovers seemed like a turning point Friday night before 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena. But then Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry went to work for Toronto.
Lowry three-pointer. Leonard three-pointer. Lowry steal and layup. Leonard rebound and two-pointer.
While that was happening at one end, the Wizards shot 1-for-7 at the other. By the time Washington coach Scott Brooks called a timeout, the Raptors were back in control 80-73 less than five minutes into the quarter.
“Just playing hard,” Lowry said after the game. “Getting stops and picking up the pace a little bit again.”
The Raptors never trailed again, winning 125-107 to improve their record to 16-4 — a franchise best for the first 20 games of the season.
Leonard finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Lowry had 15 point and nine assists.
"Still think we can get better."
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 24, 2018
The duo turned heads again in the fourth quarter with sensational back-to-back buckets.
Lowry went first with what the official scoring sheet described as a four-foot driving back hook. Other saw it as a circus shot with the point guard off balance and hanging in the air as he threw up a shot that somehow went in for a 114-99 lead.
Leonard then one-upped him with a series of shake-and-bake sideways moves that likely left his Wizard defender in need of a Gravol before the Raptor-of-few-words sank a 13-footer.
“I’m healthy and I’m happy that I’m playing and we’re playing well,” said Leonard, whose playing time is still being monitored after an injury-plagued season that lasted just nine games.
“That’s all I’m going out there (and) doing — is just having fun and just trying to play hard. We’ve been very successful so far.”
Leonard made 12-of-22 shots with Toronto coach Nick Nurse saying that number will only improve.
“I’ll bet you that could have real easy been a 16- or 17-for-22,” said Nurse. “He had a couple of point-blank little turnaround four- or five-footers that in-and-outed on him. I still think there’s going to be a night when we’re in here talking about his 19-for-22 in the future.”
Lowry was coming off his first triple-double of the season (21 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds) in Wednesday’s 124-108 win in Atlanta. It marked his 13th career triple-double.
Brooks was complimentary towards the Raptors in his pre-game media session.
“They have been a great team for quite some time now,” he said when asked if Toronto had changed its game. “They defend. They play both sides of the ball. They move the ball.
“Obviously Kawhi Leonard is an MVP-type player and he’s having a great year. Back to his normal ways. And Kyle, it seems like he’s just ageless. He just keeps playing. He keeps getting better. He’s tough and he’s a winner.
“He’s leading the league in assists. I don’t know if he’s ever done that before. You usually don’t do that at his age (32) if you have not done it before unless your last name is Stockton. But he’s great. He helps that team win every night with his toughness an leadership.”
The Wizards (6-12) came into the game 10th in the Eastern Conference amidst reports of wholesale dissatisfaction in the ranks despite a 125-119 comeback win Tuesday over the Clippers.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press