Sports: The Raptors are still an East contender even without Kawhi Leonard - - PressFrom - Canada
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Sports The Raptors are still an East contender even without Kawhi Leonard

21:55  11 november  2019
21:55  11 november  2019 Source:   msn.com

Clippers' Leonard ruled out vs. Jazz for load management

  Clippers' Leonard ruled out vs. Jazz for load management Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will sit out versus the Utah Jazz in his first instance of load management this season, head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday, according to The Athletic's Jovan Buha. Leonard, 28, had appeared in all four of the Clippers' games to date, averaging career highs of 27 points and 7.5 assists per game. The next 48 hours will see the Clippers play the first of their 13 back-to-backs this season. After facing the Jazz in Utah on Wednesday night, the Clippers return to L.A. for a Thursday battle with Leonard's first NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs.

The Raptors are still rolling despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors are still rolling despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard.

When Kawhi Leonard departed from the Toronto Raptors after winning an NBA championship, Canada’s chances to repeat plummeted. The Raptors still had loads of talent including Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and a growing superstar in Pascal Siakam. Toronto had two choices: trade off their veterans and rebuild or see how far their holdovers could get them.

Just nine games into the season, it’s already apparent the Raptors are damn good. They’re 7-2 and second in the Eastern Conference standing heading into the new week. They hold the fifth-best net rating in the league, outscoring opponents by 7.08 points per 100 possessions, over a point per 100 possessions better than what they accomplished last year.

Clippers' Leonard ruled out vs. Jazz for load management

  Clippers' Leonard ruled out vs. Jazz for load management Milos Raonic of Thornnhill, Ont., lost 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4 to No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria in the second round of the Paris Masters.

Though Siakam is close, Toronto doesn’t have one elite-level player shouldering all the weight. The Raptors are a system of long-armed, three-point trigger-happy wings, stocky guards and terrific defenders. Leonard might’ve been the alpha, but Siakam, Ibaka and Anunoby are his mini-me betas working together to replace him. And Fred VanVleet and Lowry make for a strong backcourt.

These Raptors are good.

The Raptors win against the Lakers showed what they’re about

The Raptors traveled to L.A. for one of their biggest tests of the year against LeBron James and Anthony Davis without two of their best players. Both Lowry and Ibaka went down in the game prior to a fractured thumb and sprained ankle. Lowry is expected to miss at least two weeks, while Ibaka is out indefinitely.

Kawhi Leonard Reveals The Heartwarming Family Reason For Why He Sits Out Games (VIDEO)

  Kawhi Leonard Reveals The Heartwarming Family Reason For Why He Sits Out Games (VIDEO) Kawhi always puts his family first.Ben Golliver of the Washington Post was the first to cover Leonard's heartwarming remarks on the subject following the Clippers Thursday evening victory over the San Antonio Spurs. “I just want to be able to walk strong when I’m done playing this game. My son motivates me to keep playing. Once he gets to the age to play basketball, I want to be able to play with him still.

Toronto rolled on, starting Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Anunoby alongside Siakam and Gasol. Chris Boucher, a G-League star who played in just 35 games ever, logged 24 minutes off the bench, while free agent signing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and rookies Terence Davis and Matt Thomas filled in the rest. Toronto outscored the Lakers by 17 points in the second half, and won, 113-104.

The win wasn’t a fluke lights-out shooting night for them, or ice-cold shooting night for their opponent. Toronto’s length disrupted the Lakers. L.A. turned the ball over 12 times, and six of those were Raptors steals. (Toronto leads the NBA is fastbreak points per game at 22.7.) Anthony Davis had five turnovers himself, and James only shot 5-of-13 from two-point range. The Raptors fought, and an electrifying Siakam rejection of James proved it.

On the offensive end, Siakam was the catalyst who scored 24 points with 11 rebounds, and everyone else played a role. VanVleet stepped in with 23 points and 10 assists, Boucher made 7-of-11 shots for 15 points, Davis made 5-of-8 shots for 13 points, and Hollis-Jefferson had 10 six shots.

The Raptors’ bench of no-name fill-ins crushed the Lakers after their starting lineup of hardly-known role guys gave them a head start. That’s this year’s Toronto team in a nutshell.

Where do the Raptors go from here?

If you aren’t a Pascal Siakam believer yet, I’m not sure where you’ve been. The 25-year-old is averaging 27 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from distance with nine rebounds and four assists. If the nine-game sample size isn’t enough, last year without Leonard in 21 games, Siakam averaged 19 points per game on 55 percent shooting with eight rebounds and three assists, per StatMuse. He’s a star who will make Toronto scary in the playoffs.

Just how competitive the Raptors can be in the Eastern Conference without Leonard is still up for debate. Right now, Toronto ranks No. 5 in the league in assist percentage, No. 3 in effective field goal percentage, and No. 1 in true shooting percentage. They’re stocked with guys who can create for others and knock down open shots. They take the sixth-most triples per game, and shoot them at the highest percentage in the league (39.6 percent.) Their offense is stellar. Is this the NBA’s next great system team?

Rick Zamperin: NBA sides with Kawhi Leonard, but can they continue to do so?

  Rick Zamperin: NBA sides with Kawhi Leonard, but can they continue to do so? L.A. Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard has sat out two games so far this NBA season, both of which were nationally televised contests.The phrase gained popularity when superstar Kawhi Leonard played just 60 of 82 regular-season games for the Toronto Raptors last season.

The Raptors are dependent on role players taking larger roles, and new faces taking small roles. That’s a test that’s only going to be amplified by Lowry and Ibaka’s injuries.

  • Will Fred VanVleet keep playing like a supplementary star? He’s scoring 16 points with eight assists and four rebounds, and still firing 41 percent from deep.
  • Is Anunoby the next Siakam? He’s scoring 13 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the field and making more than half his four three-point tries. He’s also averaging more than a block and steal per game.
  • Is Matt Thomas the knockdown shooter in the NBA he’s been advertised as abroad? So far, he’s made 7-of-12 attempts from three-point range.
  • Is Toronto the team that can turn Hollis-Jefferson into a consistent role player? Right now, just two games in, it’s tough to tell.

It’s time to bet the house on Pascal Siakam right now, and three weeks into the season, his supporting cast is making a name of itself, too. If it holds, the Raptors aren’t as far from winning the East again as we thought.

Kawhi turns page on Raptors tenure: 'It's over now' .
Kawhi Leonard spoke glowingly about his lone season with the Toronto Raptors ahead of Monday's showdown, but the Los Angeles Clippers superstar insists he has now turned the page. "It's over now," Leonard said after the Clippers' 98-88 victory, according to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk. "We won. Like I said before, I had a great time there. But it's the next chapter now. "I can't live in the past or just be so excited that I still won (a championship). I'm with a different team and a different unit, and they want to have that same feeling, and I do as well. I'm a Clipper right now.

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