PHILADELPHIA — Toronto Raptors forwards Kawhi Leonard has to play both halves of a back to back this season.

Which might soon be a thing of the past.

Before Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, that Leonard sat out after scoring 37 points in 32 minutes Friday night at Toronto at a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Leonard could start playing both halves of back-to-backs the following month.

“I think we exist,” Nurse said. “I think, after we get here to the new year, we’ll be there.

“No promises, however, I think we’re there.”

Saturday night was the very first time in 35 matches which Leonard walked out. Five of the absences have come as part of what the team has named”load management” since he continues to recover from the left quad tendinopathy that kept him sidelined for all but nine matches last season, when he had been with the San Antonio Spurs. The other four came after Leonard suffered a pair of minor injuries that caused him to overlook both the halves of the team’s two other back to back sets so far this season.

Those injuries included a tweaked foot suffered at a win in Phoenix and a bruised hip suffered in a loss at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Toronto has five back-to-backs this season, beginning Jan. 5, when the Raptors play Milwaukee before returning to Toronto to handle the Indiana Pacers.

It’s hard to argue with the outcomes Toronto has generated out of its own plan with Leonard this particular season. He is back to playing like the elite talent he had been before his injury problems, averaging 26.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals to the Raptors.

Toronto, meanwhile, entered Saturday night’s game with a league-leading 25-9 listing.


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