By the Associated Press
Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points and the Toronto Raptors used a 14-2 fourth-quarter run to finally put away the pesky Phoenix Suns 107-98 on Friday night.
Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and Serge Ibaka 14 for the Raptors, who improved to 8-1, the best nine-game start in franchise history. Kyle Lowry had 11 points and 12 assists.
Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, had 17 points and 18 rebounds for the Suns, losers of seven in a row since winning their season opener. Isaiah Canaan scored 19 and Devin Booker 18 for Phoenix. Booker returned after missing three games with a strained hamstring.
Phoenix trailed by only four early in the fourth quarter before Toronto’s decisive 14-2 surge.
The Suns led most of the first half but never by more than seven points.
Phoenix was up 52-48 at the break, with Canaan scoring 12 points and Ayton adding 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Raptors opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run. Leonard’s three-point play on a drive to the hoop put Toronto up 56-54 and Danny Green’s 3-pointer from the corner made it 61-54. Phoenix, though, scored the next seven, tying it at 61-61 on Booker’s 18-footer.
Despite missing four free throws during that stretch, the Raptors responded with a 13-3 run to lead 74-64 after Fred VanVleet’s 3-pointer with 2:04 left in the third quarter. Josh Jackson’s 3 at the third-quarter buzzer cut Toronto’s lead to 77-71 entering the fourth.
Jackson’s jumper to start the fourth quarter cut it to35 77-73 but the Raptors finally took control for good.
VanVleet sank a 3-pointer, followed by a steal and layup and Norman Powell sank a 3 to finish a 14-2 outburst that put the Raptors up 91-75 with 8:35 remaining.
Toronto stretched it to 99-81 on Valanciunas’ layup. Phoenix outscored the Raptors 17-8 the rest of the way.