Kawhi Leonard, Raptors visit Washington

WASHINGTON — The NBA season is less than a week old but the Toronto Raptors are making an early case as the team to beat in the East.

Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors visit the Washington Wizards Saturday night on the heels of a 113-101 win over the preseason Eastern Conference favorite Boston Celtics.

Leonard led the Raptors (2-0) with 31 points and 10 rebounds and earned MVP chants from the home crowd. He added three assists and some solid defense. Fifteen of Leonard’s points came in the third quarter.

“He did a little bit of everything, right? He hit one or two threes in that quarter, he took a couple in transition to the basket and he had a couple of isolation post-up plays,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told the Toronto Sun.

“Again, that’s kind of his versatility, I think there’s some growth to be done with his screen and roll game, right? I think we can get him up the floor and get him into some more screen and rolls … he’s got a really good handle on it, he hasn’t really busted that out yet, but he can do that as well.”

Serge Ibaka scored 21 points for Toronto and Kyle Lowry added 15.

Saturday’s game is a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in which the Raptors eliminated the Wizards in six games.

The Wizards (0-1) dropped their season opener Thursday night as Kelly Olynyk followed up Dwyane Wade‘s miss with 0.2 seconds remaining to give the Miami Heat a 113-112 win at Capital One Arena.

Wade’s 22-footer over John Wall bounced high into the air and Olynyk went up in a crowd, came down with the rebound and then laid it in.

Wall led the Wizards with 26 points and nine assists in their opener, and Bradley Beal scored 20 despite being limited by foul trouble.

The Wizards were without new center Dwight Howard, who missed the opener due to a lower back injury. His status in uncertain for Saturday night.

With several of their big men in foul trouble, the Wizards were forced to go small in the second half and ended up getting outrebounded by 15.

“When we play small, and we did tonight with all the foul trouble that we were in, we got to man up and put bodies on bodies and rebound the basketball,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “Like the last play of the game, same thing, gave up an offensive rebound. John did an incredible job at contesting one of the game’s great players in Wade.”

The Wizards spent Friday’s practice working on fundamentals such as stopping backdoor cuts and boxing out.

“It don’t matter that you’re big or small. You still got to box out. You still got to do the little details,” Wizards center Ian Mahinmi told the Washington Post. “The little stuff before the rebound, and we worked on that (Friday). We watched a lot of film. It’s definitely an area we’ve got to get better and we will get better.”

In his first start since 2016, Mahinmi played just 12 minutes and scored three points. Mahinmi, starting in place of Howard, was limited by foul trouble.

Beal has thrived against the Raptors in the past. He had 38 points in their first meeting of the season last year and two more 30-plus nights in the playoffs.

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Sports News – UPI.com

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