February 25th, 2024

James Harden’s 75th career triple-double leads Clippers past Raptors 127-107

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on January 26, 2024.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks during first half NBA basketball action against the Toronto Raptors, in Toronto on Friday, January 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

TORONTO – James Harden had a triple-double to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the undermanned Toronto Raptors 127-107 on Friday.

Harden had 22 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for the 75th triple-double of his career, eighth highest in NBA history.

Former Raptor Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points and added seven rebounds as Los Angeles (29-14) won its fourth straight.

Russell Westbrook scored 20 points off the bench and Mason Plumlee had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Scottie Barnes had 23 points, five rebounds and four assists as Toronto (16-29) lost its fourth straight game.

RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., scored 22 points and pulled down six rebounds as the Raptors had five players reach double digits in scoring. It was Barrett’s eighth 20-point performance in just 13 games with Toronto.

The Raptors’ starting lineup was without centre Jakob Poeltl and guard Immanuel Quickley. Poeltl was out a sprained left ankle and Quickley was off with a right-thigh contusion.

Thad Young started at centre and Bruce Brown at guard in their place. Young matched a season-high 12 points with six rebounds.

Leonard got a loud ovation from the sold-out crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena during pre-game introductions, with Raptors fans remembering his critical role in helping Toronto win its only NBA title in 2019. Norman Powell, who spent the first 5 1/2 seasons of his NBA career in Toronto and was also part of the 2019 championship team, got his own warm welcome when he came off the bench nearly seven minutes into the game.

Westbrook scored six points in the final 2:15 of the first quarter as Los Angeles built a 29-20 lead after one period. Barnes led all scorers with seven points in the quarter.

Harden took over in the second quarter, scoring 12 points and dishing out five assists in the period alone. Gary Trent Jr. drilled a three-pointer with 40.1 seconds left in the half and then Barrett scored on a driving layup to head into intermission with Toronto trailing 66-52.

The Raptors’ bench put together a 9-0 run in the third quarter, but Los Angeles kept its chokehold on the game. Toronto rookie Gradey Dick threw an alley-oop to Montreal’s Chris Boucher for a two-handed dunk to cut the Clippers’ lead to 14 and the visitors went into the final quarter with a 95-81 lead.

Barrett spun around Westbrook and rolled a layup into the basket with 5:41 left in the game to narrow L.A.’s lead to 13 and breathe some life into the crowd. It was as close as the Raptors would get in the quarter, even as Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue rested Leonard and Plumlee for much of the fourth.

BRATE LOVE – Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic wore a shirt to his pre-game news conference that read BRATE across the chest. Brate, pronounced BRAH’-teh, is the Serbian word for brother. The shirt was designed by the Golden State Warriors to honour Dejan Milojevic, an assistant coach who died suddenly on Jan. 17. Rajakovic and Milojevic were close friends and Golden State head coach Steve Kerr sent Rajakovic and the Raptors coaching staff the shirts so that they could also honour their friend.

UP NEXT – The Raptors begin a six-game road trip on Sunday with a stop in Atlanta against the Hawks.

Los Angeles’s east-coast swing continues with a stop against the Boston Celtics (35-10).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2024.

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