Former Toronto Raptors stars Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell returned to Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday, leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a 124-113 win.
Powell was a man on a mission on Tuesday, scoring 22 off the bench. Leonard had a more timid outing, scoring 15 points, dishing eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds. Superstar teammate Paul George carried the scoring load for Los Angeles with 23 points and five three-pointers, while center Ivica Zubac dominated the paint with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Pascal Siakam once again led the Raptors with a team-high 36 points, shooting 13-for-24 and converting 10 free throws. Gary Trent Jr. supplied the scoring off the bench with 20 points, while Scottie Barnes impressed with 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in 35 minutes. Fred VanVleet had another forgettable outing, registering a meagre four points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field.
As has been the story so far this season, the Raptors struggled to shoot the ball from deep, knocking down only six of their 23 attempts, an area of the game in which the Clippers excelled, shooting 40 percent.
A stroll down memory lane for Kawhi and Norm
Leonard sat out the first leg of a back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons on Monday, preferring to face the team he led to an NBA championship in 2019. Clippers head coach Ty Lue told reporters post-game that it was never a question for his star.
“It was a short conversation — ‘Toronto’” 😂 — Ty Lue says he offered Kawhi Leonard the choice of playing Detroit or Toronto on the back-to-back. Kawhi didn’t play in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/hMAgz0o4oe
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 28, 2022
Kawhi admitted he felt he owed it to the fans to play at Scotiabank Arena and enjoy their support once again.
“It’s always great memories coming into this arena," he said. "I would rather give the fans in Toronto a chance to see me play again.”
In the three years since he left for Los Angeles in free agency, Leonard has not forgotten about the unforgiving Toronto winters, looking cool in a glitzy parka as he entered his old stomping grounds.
— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) December 27, 2022
Leonard and Powell caught up with their former teammates and members of the Raptors staff before tip-off, providing fans with plenty of wholesome content to enjoy on social media.
Welcome back to town, Kawhi & Norm 👋 pic.twitter.com/J4Vpt2bEYp
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) December 28, 2022
Norman Powell catching up with Alex McKechnie and Kawhi Leonard joins in pic.twitter.com/QbLzGI4uiI
— Toronto Star Sports (@StarSports) December 27, 2022
Leonard received a warm welcome (albeit a much more subdued one than his first time back in Toronto) when his name was announced during the introduction of the Clippers' starting lineup.
Kawhi Leonard gets a nice ovation in his return back to Toronto in over three years pic.twitter.com/Wuz199Crjn
— Toronto Star Sports (@StarSports) December 28, 2022
Powell, on the other hand, was welcomed back with a neat tribute video and loud ovation from the Raptors faithful, as the crowd celebrated the guard's return to Toronto after he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in March 2021.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 28, 2022
In his post-game press conference, Powell admitted he had been looking forward to the trip to Toronto for some time.
“I definitely had this team circled," he said. "I told Zubac that I’m undefeated since the trade and I wanted to keep it that way.”
He also shared his perspective on the differences between the L.A. and Toronto versions of Leonard.
“He seems a little more interactive with the guys. I think when he got here, it was all business.”
Despite his success with the Clippers, Powell stills holds his time with the Raptors near and dear to his heart.
"It's still good to know that I was a part of it and that I'm a part of history, bringing the first championship to the country, to the city," he said. "I still think back, still look at the pictures."
Toronto will hope to bounce back when it hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
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