LOS ANGELES • Kawhi Leonard claimed that he had fun competing against his old team, but the reality was that the Toronto Raptors did not make it easy for him to score on Monday night.
The Los Angeles Clippers forward, facing the Canadian side in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the first time since leading them to the championship last season, was harassed at the Staples Centre by the players he was so familiar with.
As a result, he had his worst game of the season, missing nine of 11 shots but still narrowly missed out on a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to help the Clippers clinch a 98-88 win.
After the game, Leonard, who also committed nine of Los Angeles' 19 turnovers, embraced his former teammates, but made it clear that he has moved on.
"It was fun," he said in an interview with ESPN.
"It's even better coming out with a win. My teammates made shots. It wasn't one of those nights for me.
"But it's just fun being able to compete against guys you were with last year. We grew a relationship.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
It's just fun being able to compete against guys you were with last year. But it's over now... I'm a Clipper right now.
KAWHI LEONARD, LA Clippers star, on facing his former team the Toronto Raptors.
"But it's over now... Like I said before, I had a great time there. But it's the next chapter now.
"I can't live in the past or just be so excited that I won (a title). I'm with a different team and unit, and they want to have that same feeling, and I do as well. I'm a Clipper right now."
Lou Williams scored 21 points off the bench to help the Clippers (7-3) en route to their victory.
Montrezl Harrell added 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. Patrick Patterson scored 12 points, and JaMychal Green had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Pascal Siakam recorded 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Raptors, who are also on 7-3 for the campaign.
Norman Powell scored 15 points, Fred VanVleet had 14 points and eight assists, and Chris Boucher added 13 points.
Leonard was constantly double-teamed as Toronto's defence was intent on corralling him.
The strong effort came after Raptors coach Nick Nurse said following his team's win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday that he was hoping to "make life very difficult" for Leonard.
But off the court, the duo remain very much in an amicable relationship. Despite spending just one season together, Nurse has been in contact with Leonard following the player's move in July.
"We had a son at a similar time," he said. "Just watching (Leonard) from afar. He looks happy, and his family is happy, and that's all you can ask for."
The Raptors shot 40 per cent from the field and were just four of 24 in the fourth quarter while scoring only 10 points. They were 11 of 30 from three-point range overall and committed 15 turnovers.
Los Angeles won despite shooting just 37 per cent from the field, including a poor eight of 36 (22.2 per cent) from three-point range.
Leonard recorded his first field goal with 6min 29sec left in the third quarter to give his team a 62-55 lead.
Toronto rattled off the next eight points to take a one-point lead, and took a 78-73 advantage into the final period.
Leonard then made his second field goal with 6:07 left to give Los Angeles an 89-84 advantage.
Toronto closed to 92-88 after Boucher's put-back with 1:42 left.
However, Leonard fed Harrell for a dunk with 58.1sec left before his two free throws with 43.5sec remaining gave the Clippers an eight-point lead.
Green's lay-up with 18sec left sealed it for Los Angeles.
"Our guys played their guts out, we totally outplayed them, I thought," said Nurse.
"We were creating a lot of problems for them but just not quite enough."