In bittersweet return, Leonard powers Clippers past Raptors

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Kawhi Leonard finished with a team high 23 points in a bittersweet return to Toronto as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the reigning NBA champion Raptors 112-92 on Wednesday.

Leonard was welcomed back with cheers despite a sudden exit from Toronto after leading the Raptors to their first NBA title in just one season playing in Canada.

All smiles, Leonard received his diamond championship ring following a video tribute of his single season during the pregame ceremony. Former teammate Kyle Lowry handed him the ring with more than 600 diamonds.

"He told me before the game he was going to present me with the ring," Leonard said.

The Scotiabank Arena crowd greeted Leonard with a prolonged ovation, but they watched their Raptors fall behind 64-46 at the half.

Lou Williams scored 18 points and had eight assists off the bench for the Clippers, who have won five of their past six games.

Maurice Harkless added 14 points, Paul George had 13, Patrick Beverley and Patrick Patterson each scored 11, and Montrezl Harrell contributed 10.

Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for the Raptors, who have lost four of their past five games.

Elsewhere, LeBron James recorded his sixth triple double of the season to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past Orlando 96-87, a game in which former Magic player Dwight Howard was greeted with boos.

James delivered 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Reigning Western Conference player of the week Anthony Davis added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won 15 of 16 overall and 12 in a row on the road.

A chorus of boos from the crowd greeted former Orlando center Howard. He played eight seasons with the Magic who used the top pick to take him in the 2004 entry draft.

But Howard never rose to the hype of being a first overall pick as he lost in five games to the Lakers in the 2009 NBA finals.

The booing got more boisterous on Wednesday after Howard exchanged shoves with some Magic players during the third quarter.

Los Angeles's Jared Dudley and Orlando's Wes Iwundu were thrown out of the game following a melee that started with Jonathan Isaac fouling Howard.

Los Angeles's road winning streak matches the 1972-73 team for the second-longest run in franchise history. The club record is 16 straight road victories, set by the 1971-72 Lakers.