TORONTO (AP) – One day after the Toronto Raptors practised “game-winning shots”, Kawhi Leonard made one against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard scored the go-ahead basket with three seconds remaining and the Raptors held on to beat the Trail Blazers 119-117 on Friday night.
Toronto won the game when Leonard used a screen by Kyle Lowry to drive against Portland’s Damian Lillard, then rose over his smaller opponent for the decisive basket.
“We just practised that exact scenario the previous day,’’ Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
“It was great. Kyle sets a screen and we try to get the smaller guy so Leonard can just vault up over him and shoot.’’
Toronto had run the same play moments earlier, with Lowry making a layup. When the play was called again, Leonard was more interested in keeping the ball himself.
“I was looking to get baseline,’’ Leonard said. “That first time I had seen I could be a little bit more aggressive and that’s what I did the second time down.’’
Leonard scored 38 points and Lowry had 19 points and 10 assists as the Raptors won for the ninth time in 10 games. Toronto is an National Basketball Association (NBA)-best 11-4 in games decided by three points or fewer.
“Just staying composed and understanding that situations aren’t always going to be perfect,’’ Lowry said.
Marc Gasol scored 19 points and Pascal Siakam had 16 for Toronto, which has won four straight home meetings with Portland and seven of the past eight overall.
CJ McCollum scored 35 points and matched a career best by making seven three-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to extend Portland’s season-best five-game winning streak.
Lillard scored 24 points and Jake Layman had 13 as the Trail Blazers suffered their first loss after winning four straight to begin a seven-game trip.
“It’s disappointing to lose but I like the way we competed,’’ Portland coach Terry Stotts said.