Leonard scores 31 points as Raptors top Boston 113-101
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks on the Boston Celtics during second half NBA action in Toronto on Friday, October 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 19, 2018 10:40PM EDT
TORONTO -- Kawhi Leonard had 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter Friday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 113-101 victory over the Boston Celtics in a marquee Eastern Conference matchup.
Leonard, who was serenaded by chants of “M-V-P!,” also hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds in his second real NBA game in nine months.
Serge Ibaka had 21 points, while Kyle Lowry had 15 points, six assists and five boards as the Raptors (2-0) remained undefeated in early season action. Danny Green chipped in with 14 points, while Fred VanVleet added 11.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics (1-1) with 21 points.
The game was an early gauge of how the Raptors stack up against the general consensus team to beat in the East, and preview of what should be a fierce season-long battle between the two Atlantic Division powerhouses that could extend into the playoffs.
The Raptors were coming off a 116-104 win over Cleveland in Wednesday's season opener, while the Celtics began their campaign Tuesday with a 105-87 rout of Philadelphia.
Neither team led by more than eight points on Friday, and the Raptors took an 82-79 lead into the fourth quarter in front of a soldout Scotiabank Arena crowd that included swimmer Penny Oleksiak and former Toronto Argonauts quarterback Damon Allen.
Leonard launched a three-pointer midway through the fourth that put the Raptors up by six and brought the crowd to its feet. An Al Horford three pulled the Celtics to within two points with just under three minutes to play, but Green and Lowry connected on back-to-back three-pointers to put the brakes on any Boston momentum. It was all Toronto the rest of the way.
Leonard, who until Wednesday's opener hadn't played an NBA regular-season game since January 13, had predicted it would take time to find his rhythm. And while the former San Antonio star shot just 3-for-11 in the first half, he was constantly creating havoc on the defensive end and grabbing rebounds with his enormous hands.
The Raptors improved to 10-1 versus Boston at home. The two teams have accounted for 12 of the last 14 Atlantic Division titles, Toronto winning five and Boston seven.
OG Anunoby began the game wearing protective goggles after suffering a orbital contusion on Wednesday's opener, but he ditched them after a few minutes on the floor. Delon Wright (groin strain) didn't play.
The Raptors led by three points late in a tight first quarter, but the Celtics closed the frame on a 14-4 run to take a 25-18 lead into the second.
Toronto took a one-point lead three minutes before halftime, but the Celtics responded with a 9-2 run to go up by eight. Then with time ticking down, VanVleet drilled a three as the buzzer sounded, cutting Boston's lead to 53-49 heading into the break.
Leonard poured in 15 points in an eight-minute stretch of the third, and his cutting dunk midway through the quarter put the Raptors up by two.
The Raptors and Celtics will meet three more times in the regular season. Next up is Nov. 16 in Boston.
The Raptors are in Washington on Saturday to play the Wizards, their first-round opponent from last season's playoffs.