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Kawhi Leonard Playing at an MVP Level

Toronto Raptors Roundup is a weekly segment where we fill you in on all the games, highlights and stories from last week. Here’s what you missed from the tenth week of the season.

The Toronto Raptors played shorthanded for much of the week, missing key starters and rotation players in every game. Kyle Lowry sat out multiple games since his hard fall against the Warriors. Serge Ibaka, Danny Green and Jonas Valanciunas also missed games this week, nursing a variety of injuries.

Despite being short, coach Nick Nurse has managed to mix and match different line-ups and find success as the Raptors went 2-1 this week, including a big comeback win against a hot Indiana Pacers squad. Kawhi Leonard has been nothing short of incredible as of late, cementing himself in the MVP discussion. He was integral in the comeback against the Pacers and matched a season high in scoring against the Cavs.

Game Recap

Indiana at Toronto

Stuck in mud. A step slow. Without their sea legs.  Just some of the words that can be used to describe the Raptors lacklustre play for most of Wednesday night. The Indiana Pacers came into town riding a seven-game winning streak and showed why they are the fastest climbing team in the NBA of late.

The Raptors, down three starters (Lowry, Ibaka, and Valanciunas) struggled mightily from the field for most of the night, shooting a pedestrian 40% from the field but hitting only 7 for 30 from deep. Down by as many as 17, the Raptors manage to put together a dramatic fourth quarter effort to allow themselves to claw back in what turned out to be an exciting, yet controversial finish.

In the final sequences of the game, Kawhi Leonard had an emphatic dunk that brought the crowd to its feet bringing the Raptors within striking distance. The house came down again a minute later when Fred VanVleet hit a deep three to give the Raptors their first lead since the first quarter.

The Indiana Pacers were incensed over a non-call on Bojan Bogdanovic on the final play of the game; a foul that would have given the Pacers enough free throw shots to tie it up. The 99-96 victory pushed the Raptors to 24-9.

Note:  Norman Powell returned after a month-long absence (shoulder), and was largely ineffective, contributing only two points in fifteen minutes of play.

Cleveland at Toronto

Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Danny Green were all out against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night but it didn’t matter as the Raptors led wire to wire, coming away victorious 126-110. The Raptors moved to an NBA best 25-9 record.

OG Anunoby stepped up in the absence of his injured teammates, scoring a career high in points (21) and rebounds (8), including this monstrous dunk.

Kawhi Leonard was on fire again, matching a season-high 37 points, shooting an efficient 12 of 16 from the field including two of four from deep. Fred VanVleet, filled in for Lowry, playing like the ‘Steady Freddy’ of old, scoring 14 points, adding five rebounds and eight assists.

 

Toronto at Philadelphia

The Raptors were missing three essential pieces, on the second game of a back-to-back, and playing against one of the best teams in the NBA. If there ever was an example of a “Schedule Loss” Saturday’s contest against the 76ers was it.

Toronto held tough for a while, and midway through the second quarter, was actually leading. Ultimately, the 76ers star power eventually ended up being too much as Joel Embiid scored 23 first-half points and Ben Simmons was two assists shy of a triple-double.

 

The Week Ahead

Toronto at Miami

Despite several injuries this season, the Miami Heat have managed to hover around .500 for most of the year. They have put together a nice string of games of late due to some strong defence and timely rebounding. However, Lady Luck must not be a Heat fan as news broke this week that Goran Dragic will miss eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The Raptors will hope to take advantage of Dragic’s absence in this Boxing Day match-up.

Toronto at Orlando

The Magic are still in the playoff picture, to the surprise of many. But don’t tell Nikola Vucevic that. The Magic’s leading scorer and rebounder this year has been a strong pairing with Aaron Gordon and DJ Augustin as the Magic take advantage of a weak South East division and manage to remain relevant for now.

Next: Holiday gifts for every Raptor

Chicago at Toronto

The Raptors finish off this relatively easy week with another opponent who is certainly beatable. The beat up Bulls just lost another two players this week in Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis, both out for an extended period of time. Look for the Raptors to take care of business at home against the Chicago Bulls.

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