Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Beat Spurs 120-117 in DeMar DeRozan's Return to Toronto

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2019

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 22:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs defends during the first half of an NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on February 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors extended their winning streak to seven games with a 120-117 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Kawhi Leonard, who was traded from the Spurs to the Raptors during the offseason and received a chorus of boos in his return to San Antonio last month, tallied 25 points and six rebounds in the rematch. His steal and dunk with 15.1 seconds left gave Toronto the lead for good.

DeMar DeRozan, the centerpiece of the Spurs' return package in the July blockbuster, was welcomed back to Toronto with a rousing ovation. He recorded 23 points and eight assists.

            

Danny Green Is X-Factor in Raptors' Race for Top Seed

Toronto features two bona fide stars in Lowry and Kawhi Leonard as well as an emerging third weapon in Pascal Siakam, who scored 44 points in the team's final game before the All-Star break.

While that trio gives the Raptors a foundation to compete for an Eastern Conference crown, Green is the player who could make or break their push to overtake the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 1 seed. It's a race that could come right down to the wire.

Green entered the game with mundane overall numbers. He's averaging 9.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 44.6 percent from the field across 57 appearances.

His three-point shooting is crucial for the Raptors, though. He knocks down 2.2 threes per contest while making 42.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. That's made more crucial by the fact Toronto entered Saturday 22nd in the NBA in three-point percentage.

Green, another piece from the teams' offseason trade, made five of his seven shots from long range against his former team to provide the Raptors offense with a much-needed spark.

The 31-year-old UNC product isn't going to lead Toronto in scoring many nights—it's only happened once so far this season—but his shooting success will be a key piece of the puzzle for the Raptors during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.

           

Spurs' Deep Bench Will Fuel Playoff Push

The Western Conference playoff picture remains muddled with around 20 games left. The difference between the fourth-place Portland Trail Blazers and 10th-place Los Angeles Lakers is just six games, leaving plenty of room for movement in the final months.

San Antonio sits seventh in the West with a 33-27 record following Friday's loss. It leaves the franchise's 21-year playoff streak in some jeopardy.

The Spurs' versatile bench, led by Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Davis Bertans, is an advantage that could make a major difference in the close battle for the final berths.

San Antonio came into the clash with Toronto seventh in the league in bench efficiency differential, per HoopsStats.com. The reserve group also leads the NBA in threes made per game (5.7) and three-point shooting percentage (41.3). The next highest is the Los Angeles Clippers at 36.9 percent.

The Spurs received 53 points and 10 made threes from Mills, Belinelli and Bertans on Friday. Jakob Poeltl added eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

While it wasn't enough to overcome a strong Raptors team on the road, those type of numbers from the bench will be critical for San Antonio as it tries to earn another trip to the postseason.

             

What's Next?

The Raptors continue their homestand Sunday afternoon against the Orlando Magic.

San Antonio, which is embarking on its annual rodeo road trip, is back in action Sunday night when it takes on the New York Knicks, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.

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