Raptors ready to ring in Leonard’s return with Clippers

Field Level Media Sports

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Kawhi Leonard will get his NBA championship ring Wednesday night when the Los Angeles Clippers (-2.5) visit the Toronto Raptors (+2.5).

Ticket-holders have been asked to be in their seats early for the pregame presentation ceremony to Leonard, who led the Raptors to their first NBA title last season — his only one in Toronto — before leaving for Los Angeles as a free agent.

Both teams are coming off road victories on Monday night, with the Clippers defeating the Indiana Pacers 110-99 and the Raptors squeaking past the Chicago Bulls 93-92.

Leonard was rested for Monday’s game, the second half of a back-to-back set, with a sore left knee.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers has no doubt what the reception will be for Leonard on Wednesday.

“That’s a standing ovation,” Rivers told reporters after Monday’s game. “Really, I don’t think that is very hard. We got a taste of that in Vancouver. We saw it in an exhibition game because Kawhi was in town. So if I’m a fan base and a guy won me a title, I might retire his jersey that night.”

That would be quite different from the reaction by Pacers fans to the return of former Indiana star Paul George on Monday. George was booed and responded with 36 points, even though he spent two seasons in Oklahoma City in between Indiana and Los Angeles.

George also has no doubt what reception Leonard will receive in Toronto. “The exact opposite of what it was like (Monday),” he said.

Leonard told The Athletic that the trip to Toronto is about winning that night’s game.

“I’ll be thinking about just playing against the team and wanting to win the game, for the most part,” Leonard told The Athletic. “Just really getting my ring that night. … We’re there for one reason: to play the Raptors and try to win the game.”

The Clippers are in the middle of a six-game road trip and are 2-1. They have won twice since dropping the opener to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

Leonard, who has missed seven games this season, scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 135-119 win over the Washington Wizards Sunday. He is averaging 25.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals this season.

Also out for the Clippers on Monday were JaMychal Green (bruised tailbone), Landry Shamet (sprained ankle) and Rodney McGruder (strained hamstring).

The Raptors were without Fred VanVleet (right knee contusion) Monday as they overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to end a three-game losing streak.

Kyle Lowry — who had 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists on Monday — scored the final points of the game on a layup with 50.9 seconds remaining.

He also called an impromptu players-only meeting during the third quarter.

“I asked coach (Nick Nurse) to call a timeout and I pretty much brought us together,” Lowry said. “It’s that time of the year when it’s a month and a half in, two months in. You know, guys coming back from injury and we just kind of hit a big, tough part in the schedule. We just had to start being on the same page, be dogs again, be aggressive and be assertive.”

Lowry and Serge Ibaka were injured Nov. 11 when the host Clippers won 98-88 in the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Clippers had a 25-10 advantage in the fourth quarter.

The Raptors have done well in shutting down the star players from the opposition. They held Leonard to 2-for-11 shooting from the field and he finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. George did not play in the game.

The Clippers were held to 37 percent shooting, but outrebounded the Raptors 66-38.

–Field Level Media

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