To be clear, the Toronto Raptors are not better without Kawhi Leonard, the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer and two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
The thing is, they’ve somehow managed to play like it, improving to 11-2 when he sits after Tuesday’s 120-103 rout of the Sacramento Kings.
Full disclosure: The Kings were also short-handed thanks to De’Aaron Fox’s sore toe.
But neither were they making any excuses after the Raptors outscored them by 20 over the final three quarters, a comprehensive beating aptly summarized by their social media team.
Things went South in the North. pic.twitter.com/057d4rNkio
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 23, 2019
Leonard was ably replaced in the starting lineup by Fred VanVleet, who played alongside Kyle Lowry in the backcourt while Danny Green slid into Leonard’s vacated spot at small forward. VanVleet and Lowry complemented one another perfectly, scoring 19 points apiece while dishing out seven and nine assists, respectively.
They also got big performances from Serge Ibaka (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Pascal Siakam (18 points).
But the Raptors, who are 25-11 when Leonard plays, mostly did it with balance as eight players took at least six shots and/or scored at least eight points.
Bad news for the Indiana Pacers: Not only is Leonard, who is being rested, expected to sit out for tonight’s game, the Raptors are 8-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.
Shocker: Russell Westbrook had beef with an opponent, jawing with Jusuf Nurkic and later Damian Lillard as the Oklahoma City Thunder wore out the Portland Trail Blazers 123-114.
As such, Westbrook put a little extra something on this late dunk, followed by an emphatic reminder that, yes, he can indeed jump very, very high.
Channeling his inner Hulk Hogan (shoutout to J.E. Skeets), Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic made short work of his poor, poor jersey after missing 5 of 7 shots in the first half against the LA Clippers.
Explained young Doncic after the game: “Yeah, I was pissed.”
No kidding …
Human after all
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry endured a rare moment of fallibility with his pratfall-air ball combo in Monday’s decimation of the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was the exact type of miscue Shaqtin’ A Fool was made for. But he’s been a good sport about it, even going on the Late Late Show With James Corden to endure some good-natured barbs from the host.
— The Late Late Show with James Corden (@latelateshow) January 23, 2019