Kawhi Leonard poured in 38 points, including the winning basket with 1.5 seconds to play, to lift the Toronto Raptors to a thrilling 119-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Marc Gasol added 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Kyle Lowry had 19 points, 10 assists and seven boards. Pascal Siakam chipped in with 16 points, while Danny Green added 11 for the Raptors (46-17), who’ve won seven of their last eight meetings against Portland, including four in a row at home.
CJ McCollum had 35 points, and tied his career best with seven three-pointers, to top the Trail Blazers (38-24), who saw their five-game win streak come to a halt.
The game capped Toronto’s season-high six-game homestand, and, with Gasol starting for just the second time as a Raptor, marked coach Nick Nurse’s 16th different starting lineup this season.
The Raptors virtually took up where they left off in Tuesday’s solid 118-95 victory over Boston. Their offence at times was running like a well-oiled machine. Lowry and Gasol, in particular, were clicking. And when Norman Powell scored on a driving finger roll late in the third quarter, the Raptors took a game-high 16-point lead.
Portland all but erased the Raptors’ 93-84 advantage to start the fourth with a 10-2 run, pulling within a point on a three-pointer by Damian Lillard with 6:47 to play. Another three by Lillard tied the game at 103-103 with 3:25 to play.
Neither team led by more than a couple of points in the thrilling final few minutes, and Green’s three-pointer with 57 seconds left to tie the game brought the roaring Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 to its feet.
Lowry drove to the hoop for a layup to give Toronto a one-point lead, Siakam threw down a monstrous dunk, and Leonard made good on two free throws – to chants of “M-V-P!” – and Toronto led by three with 18 seconds left.
Four seconds later, Lillard tied the game on three free throws after Lowry was whistled for fouling him on a three-pointer.
But Leonard ensured the victory, scoring with a second to play and sending the delirious Raptors crowd home happy.
The Trail Blazers were missing Enes Kanter, who was concerned about crossing the border after Turkish prosecutors said they’re seeking an international arrest warrant for the player, accusing him of membership in a terrorist organization.
Kanter tweeted on his inactive status before the game, writing: “Enes Kanter – OUT (Dictatorship)”
The former Knicks player who was signed by Portland last month didn’t travel with New York for their game in London earlier this season fearing for his safety. Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Turkish president Recept Tayyip Erdogan. His Turkish passport was revoked in 2017.
The Raptors raced out to a strong start, doling out nine assists on 11 field goals in the first quarter, and shooting a sizzling 65 per cent in the frame to take a 31-24 lead into the second.
The Blazers opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run to go ahead by two points. Toronto replied with a 15-6 run to take a 10-point lead and Toronto went into the halftime break up 61-54.
The Raptors are in Detroit to face former coach Dwane Casey and his Pistons on Sunday. They’re back home to Houston on Tuesday.
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