The Associated Press
CLEVELAND–Even with Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup, the best fight Toronto put up in Cleveland was when Serge Ibaka threw a punch at Marquese Chriss.
Ibaka and Chriss were ejected for fighting during the Cavaliers’ 126-101 victory over the Raptors last night.
Leonard scored 25 points after sitting out Sunday’s game but the team with the league’s second-best record trailed most of the way.
Collin Sexton scored 28 points while Kevin Love had 16 points and 18 rebounds for Cleveland, which dominated the second half and seemed to gain momentum after the fight with a second left in the third quarter.
Ibaka went to the floor after he and Chriss were battling for position under Cleveland’s basket as the Raptors tried a full-court pass that sailed out of bounds.
Ibaka shoved Chriss from behind and grabbed near his neck before throwing a punch. Chriss responded with a punch before players from both teams separated the two.
Ibaka immediately headed for the locker-room and both players were kicked out after the officials conferred.
“I saw it out of the corner of my eye,” Love said. “It happened so fast. Everybody almost wants to run out there and check what’s going on.
“It was broken up quick,” he added. “That’s usually how it goes.”
“I didn’t see much of it, to be honest,” echoed Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse.
“Listen, it’s always going to be concerning when something like that happens,” he added. “We certainly don’t want that in our game.
“We don’t want to lose one of our guys.”
Neither player was available for comment following the game. A Raptors’ spokesman said Ibaka was reacting to something Chriss said to him after the Toronto player was knocked to the floor.
Cleveland held a 91-77 lead when the fight occurred and poured it on in the fourth quarter.
Nurse pulled his starters as the Cavaliers pulled away and the lead reached 27 points with just under a minute to play.
“That was a great win for us,” Love said. “Especially against a real good team at home.
“It was fun.”
Cedi Osman scored 19 points and Ante Zizic added 17 for Cleveland, which had six players in double figures.
Leonard was 11-of-19 from the field but the Raptors only led briefly in the first half.
“They did a great job, they played well, and they made open shots,” Leonard noted.
“That’s pretty much the way the game played out.”
Kyle Lowry scored 14 points for the Raptors.
Toronto (48-20) trails Milwaukee by 2.5 games for the best record in the NBA.
Toronto rolled to a 125-104 win over the Heat the previous day without Leonard, tying a franchise record with 21 three-pointers and outscoring Miami 63-24 from beyond the arc.
Leonard, averaging 27 points this season, hasn’t appeared in more than two-consecutive games since playing in five-straight from Jan. 25 through Feb. 5.
The Raptors, showing signs of being tired in their third-straight road game, struggled throughout the game.
Toronto fell behind by 10 points and committed 11 turnovers leading to 13 points for the Cavaliers.
Nurse had a simple explanation for the loss that ended Toronto’s three-game road trip that began with wins over New Orleans and Miami.
“It didn’t seem like our energy was where theirs was,” he remarked.
“Obviously, we’re coming off a back-to-back and off a game where we played unbelievably well and we didn’t handle the success that great.”
Nurse also said Lowry turned an ankle late in the game but the injury isn’t serious.
The Raptors next host the L.A. Lakers on Thursday.