Kawhi Leonard's return and ring night went in his favour, which was bad news for the Toronto Raptors.
The former Finals MVP led the LA Clippers with 23 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals, handing a decisive 112-92 loss to his former team.
The Raptors started the game on the right foot, but one of their worst quarters of the season put them in an 18-point hole at the half. They made a push in the third quarter to cut the Clippers lead to just five points, but LA closed the frame with a 12-0 run to get back to a comfortable 17-point lead that they would never surrender.
For more on Leonard's first game back in Toronto, we have you covered with takeaways below.
Kawhi Leonard's first game back in Toronto since bringing the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history did not disappoint. The tribute video was one-of-a-kind:
Fun Guy in town. pic.twitter.com/RdAwMTuZES- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 11, 2019
And the on-court display that reenacted Leonard's Game 7 game-winner over the Philadelphia 76ers was goosebump-worthy:
The Raptors recreated Kawhi's game-winning shot against Philly on the floor. 👀 pic.twitter.com/xelM2hPsPo- TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 12, 2019
As far as actual in-game performance, Leonard had a much easier time getting his shots and creating for his teammates since the Raptors weren't able to double-team him the way they did in LA with Paul George on the floor.
Even though George had a rough outing, going 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc for 13 points, he's a big enough threat that Toronto couldn't execute the same gameplan that forced Leonard into a career-high nine turnovers and 2-for-11 shooting earlier this season.
The result: Kawhi finished with a team-high 23 points, scoring efficiently on 8-for-14 (57.1%) from the field, 2-for-4 (50.0%) from beyond the arc and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. He also had six assists - creating another 15 points for his team - to go with five rebounds and two steals.
Kawhi (23 PTS) led the Clippers to a W in his return to Toronto! 💪#ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/Wd4njL5WJ5- NBA TV (@NBATV) December 12, 2019
It wasn't exactly an emotional return, as you'd expect from Leonard, but he shared a few moments on the floor with his former teammates before and after the game and came away with what is likely a much-desired W.
The second quarter
The Raptors entered the second quarter with a five-point lead, coming out of the gates strong after a longer than usual pregame ceremony.
Unfortunately for Toronto, they couldn't keep that momentum rolling. The Raptors put together their second-worst offensive quarter of the season, scoring just 14 points in the frame.
Ironically, their worst offensive quarter came in the fourth period in their loss to the Clippers earlier this season, scoring just 10 points. This time around, Toronto allowed LA to score 37 points in the frame, turning a five-point lead into an 18-point deficit at the half.
The Raptors couldn't get anything to fall, shooting 5-for-22 (22.7%) from the field and a horrific 0-for-9 from 3-point range. Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby each went 0-for-3 from the field while Pascal Siakam was 1-for-4.
Even more costly, Toronto turned the ball over eight times in the quarter, but they were lucky in that the Clippers only created four points off of those eight turnovers.
On the defensive end, they had no answer for Lou Williams who got cooking to spark LA's offence. Williams scored 13 points shooting 5-for-7 from the field and also dished out three assists, getting everything to click for the Clippers.
As a team, LA shot 14-for-24 (58.3%) from the field, scoring at ease with 16 points in the paint while also going 3-for-7 (42.9%) from 3-point land.
The Raptors 37 points allowed in the quarter was their second-most this season (49 points in third quarter vs. Jazz) and they failed to recover from that lopsided period for the remainder of the game.
Siakam's slump continues
After getting out to a roaring start to the season, Pascal Siakam has cooled off significantly.
He's had trouble getting things going and that did not change in this contest against the Clippers.
He only took three shot attempts in the first quarter, going 1-for-3 from the field for just three points. In Toronto's dreaded second quarter, he got to the free throw line twice but was just 1-for-4 from the field for just six points, giving him a mere nine points at the half.
While you would have hoped he could have found new energy for the second half, Siakam still could not get his shots to fall out of the break. He was more aggressive, taking eight shots in the third quarter alone, but was 3-for-8 from the field missing a few shots right around the rim - shots he typically makes.
He finished the game with 24 points and shot 9-for-20 (45.0%) from the field, but that included a 4-for-5 stretch in garbage time that bolstered his field goal percentage and final stat line. He also had four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and one steal, but he never took over on the offensive end like we saw earlier this season.
Over the last five games, Siakam is averaging just 20.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists shooting an uncharacteristic 40.2% from the field and 20.8% from 3-point land.
It's no coincidence that the Raptors have lost four of their last five games with their go-to guy going through a bit of a slump.
Struggles at Scotiabank Arena
After starting the season a franchise record 9-0 on their home court, the Raptors have now lost three-consecutive games at Scotiabank Arena.
They lost to the Miami Heat by 11 points in overtime, the Houston Rockets by 10 points and now, a 20-point loss to the Clippers.
This is the first time Toronto has lost three home games in a row since the 2015-16 season and they have now lost four of their last five games overall.
They'll have a good bounce-back opportunity hosting a short-handed Brooklyn Nets team this weekend, but the Raptors need to iron out some issues on the offensive end.
Over their 1-4 stretch, Toronto has shot 40% from the field and 27% from 3-point range after shooting 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc through their first 19 games, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
After starting the season 15-4, the Raptors have fallen to 16-8 but have easier times ahead with three of their next four opponents owning records under .500.
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