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Kawhi clips in 23 on Toronto return, Lakers going strong on the road

James Harden scored 55, pretty standard night.

KAWHI LEONARD FINISHED with 23 points on his return to Toronto as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the reigning NBA champion Raptors 112-92.

Leonard was welcomed back with cheers despite his summer exit from Toronto after leading the Raptors to their first NBA title in just one season playing in Canada. 

clippers-raptors-basketball Leonard was presented his Championship ring, which figures a raised middle finger, by Kyle Lowry. Source: Nathan Denette

All smiles, Leonard received his diamond championship ring following a video tribute of his season during the pregame ceremony. Former teammate Kyle Lowry handed him the ring with more than 600 diamonds.

“He told me before the game he was going to present me with the ring,” Leonard said.

The Scotiabank Arena crowd greeted Leonard with a prolonged ovation, but they watched their Raptors fall behind 64-46 at the half.

Lou Williams finished with 18 points and had eight assists off the bench for the Clippers, who have won five of their past six games. 

“It was great,” Leonard said of the reception. “We had an unbelievable season last year. It was a historic run in the playoffs and a great feeling.”

Source: NBA/YouTube

After winning the NBA title, Leonard took his show to California signing a three-year, $103 million deal with the Clippers. Leonard played high school basketball in the town of Riverside east of Los Angeles.

Both teams were coming off road victories on Monday with the Clippers defeating the Indiana Pacers 110-99 and the Raptors squeezing past the Chicago Bulls 93-92.

Last night, the Raptors were missing Fred VanVleet who was out with an injury. Maurice Harkless added 14 points, Paul George had 13, Patrick Beverley and Patrick Patterson each scored 11, and Montrezl Harrell contributed 10.

Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for the Raptors, who have lost four of their past five games.  This marks the last time the Raptors and Clippers battle in the regular season, but they could well meet again in June, with a title on the line.

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clippers-raptors-basketball Leonard protects the ball from Marc Gaso. Source: Nathan Denette

Elsewhere, James Harden scored 20 of his 55 points in the fourth quarter as the visiting Houston Rockets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-110.

Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from struggling Cleveland, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.

Harden finished 20 of 34 from the floor and drilled 10 of 18 three-pointers to help Houston overcome a 24-0 Cleveland run that bridged the third and fourth quarters. 

“He’s incredible,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If it was the first time he’s done this, I’d be like, ‘Wow. Look at that,’ but he’s done it at this level for years.”

Source: ESPN/YouTube

Rookie Kevin Porter scored a career-high 24 points to keep pace the Cavaliers, while Collin Sexton chipped in 18.

In Florida, LeBron James recorded his sixth triple double of the season to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past Orlando 96-87, a game in which former Magic player Dwight Howard was greeted with boos after his eight-year stint in Florida.

James delivered 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Anthony Davis added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won 15 of 16 overall and 12 in a row on the road. 

la-lakers-at-orlando-magic James on his way to scoring in Orlando. Source: Stephen M. Dowell

The jeers for Howard grew more intense after he exchanged shoves with some Magic players during the third quarter. LA’s Jared Dudley and Orlando’s Wes Iwundu were thrown out of the game following a melee that started with Jonathan Isaac fouling Howard.

The Lakers’ road winning streak matches the 1972-73 team for the second-longest run in franchise history. The club record is 16 straight road victories, set by the 1971-72 Lakers. 

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AFP

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