Tip-In: "Baby Steps" - Raptors Fight to the Finish Against Clippers, But Still Come Up Short




The Raptors didn't get blown out by the Clippers, a big change from the night before...but the overall end result was still the same...

It's pretty hard to understand this team.

One night they're getting blown out of the water by a mediocre club like Golden State, the next, they're taking a club like OKC down to the wire.

Last night was a bit of the latter as the Toronto Raptors kept the Los Angeles Clippers from blowing them out, although again, execution issues down the stretch cost them their 21st win of the season.

The final was 94 to 90 in favour of the Clips, and the Raps final West Coast swing of the season ends with only one win in five attempts.

Positives to take from yet another loss?

The most obvious one is that the Raptors did a much better job on D tonight, fighting for every rebound and blocked shot, keeping the Clips around the 40 per cent field goal percentage mark through most of the game.  Ed Davis had monster night with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and guys like James Johnson and and Jose Calderon had their moments too.

But there just wasn't enough offense from anyone else as DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa shot a combined 8 of 28 from the field, and guys like Sonny Weems and Julian Wright didn't see the court.

As well, Andrea Bargnani sat this one out with bone spur issues so his twenty points per game were missing from the line-up.

Would this have been a W had he played?

It's doubtful as whatever lift he might have provided on O, probably would have been nullified on D.

No, the real issue as mentioned was execution down the stretch where a Clippers' Zone D scheme in the game's final minutes threw Toronto for an absolute loop.  With the Dinos unable to break it, LA chipped away at what was a 10 point Raptors' lead, until eventually taking control of the game for good.

The Raps however did not go quietly into the night this time, another positive.

After LA made its run and it was obvious that the Raps couldn't beat down LA's zone, Jay Triano went with a smaller line-up, reinserting James Johnson in order to get some more penetration towards the hoop.

The move worked, and the Raps climbed back to within a point, looking like they were ready to fight this one out.

However on the very next possession, Jay Triano decided to throw out a zone of his own, hoping to neutralize Blake Griffin, who had prior to that been killing the Raps inside.

Unfortunately Toronto's variation of the zone left the one Clipper open that could render it useless; Eric Gordon.

Sure enough, Gordon received the pass as the ball swung from side-to-side moving the zone, and promptly put a dagger in Toronto's back.

Game over.

Yes, loss number 53 on the year but in a small victory, the L keeps TO close to the fourth-place Sacramento Kings in terms of lottery seeding.

We'll talk more about prospects and the upcoming draft on Monday, but suffice to say that that draft pick is looking more and more important on a team so devoid of talent.

And make no mistake, that's the other big issue that once again reared its ugly head in this loss.

Besides execution issues, the team lacks a go-to guy in close games, or any sort of leadership.

We saw it against Phoenix just a few nights ago, and again last night the Raptors looked to be running around in circles near the end while Blake Griffin had his troops locked in.

Toronto now gets a much-needed break in the schedule for a few days before closing out this extremely rough season.

The good news I suppose is that of the remaining games, there are a number that look like potential "morale victories," something this team could probably use.

That doesn't mean that will happen though of course.

With this club, you never know what type of effort you're in store for on a given night, and even when the effort is A1 like last night against LA, the Raptors' inexperience and lack of talent can still do them in.

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