The Canadian Press
TORONTO–While the Raptors ran their record to 4-0, and came close to a franchise record with 36 assists in their highest offensive output of the young season, coach Nick Nurse pointed to his defence after a 127-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets last night.
“I think we created a lot [of offence] out of our defence tonight, which I was probably more happy with,” he remarked.
“It was a high-scoring, free-shooting team coming in here and we asked [our players] to get out and contest and disrupt some of their rhythm, and we did a pretty good job of that.
“Eight blocked shots. [We] got our hands on a lot of balls,” he added.
Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and Kyle Lowry added 16 points and 14 assists for his second-straight double-double as the Raptors never trailed.
Toronto, which led by as many as 25 points, was up by double figures the entire second half.
“They’re long, they’re physical, and they’re athletic,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said of the Raptors.
“It’s a very good defensive group,” he added. “Bringing in two elite defenders like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, you add that to their length, their athleticism, that’s going to be a heck of a defence all season.”
Leonard, continuing to shake off the rust from his injury-disrupted 2017-18 season in San Antonio, found his shooting range early–often with some shake-and-bake moves to befuddle the man guarding him.
Leonard, who went for a workout after the game, now is averaging 25.7 points through three games.
“He’s still not back to where he normally is but he’s getting glimpses of it,” said Green, his former teammate at San Antonio.
“He’s starting to get back to himself, into his rhythm.”
All 13 Raptors scored and 12 of them contributed assists. Toronto finished with 36 assists on 50 made field goals–three assists off the single-game franchise record.
Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto off the bench.
“A lot of guys played pretty well tonight,” said Nurse.
Toronto is one win away from the franchise record of five to open the season, set in 2015-16.
The Raptors next host Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow night.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte (2-2) with 26 points. The eight-year veteran guard is averaging 33.0 points over his first four games.
Leonard, who was given the night off Saturday in Washington on the second half of back-to-back games, returned to action as Nurse used the same starting lineup (Lowry, Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka) as he did in Friday’s win over Boston.
Nurse had used three different starting lineup in the three previous games.
The game featured two of the hottest points guards in the league in Walker and Lowry, who both have been scoring from distance.
Earlier yesterday, Walker was named Eastern Conference player-of-the-week after becoming the first player in Charlotte franchise history to reach the 10,000-point plateau.
Charlotte came into the game ranked No. 1 in the NBA in three-pointers made per game at 16.3, but made just nine-of-28 three-pointers last night compared to 15-of-39 for Toronto.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Minnesota beat Indiana 101-91, Orlando shaded Boston 93-90, Milwaukee dumped New York 124-113, Dallas downed Chicago 115-109, and Memphis upended Utah 92-84.
Washington nipped Portland 125-124 (OT), Golden State beat Phoenix 123-103, and San Antonio topped the L.A. Lakers 143-142 (OT).