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3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs Clippers

Based on how they've played as of late, do the Raptors have any hope at beating the best team in Los Angeles? The HQ's Sean Tepper weighs in on today's action

The first 16 games for Toronto Raptors fans has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. What at first looked to be a promising year for our beloved Dinos has quickly turned into a nightmare, or at least a really bad dream, and it doesn’t look like that nightmare will be ending anytime soon.

The Raps are playing badly, they are banged up, and they are certainly not giving fans much to look forward to each match.

Although the Los Angeles Clippers will be entering today’s game with a number of key injuries of their own, they should feel pretty confident that the outcome will be in their favour.

And why shouldn’t they be?

The Raptors are in the midst of a seven game losing streak, they are either missing players to injury or having players play at less than 100 per cent, and they have not been competitive in a game since last Friday when they lost to the Sacramento Kings by seven.

I don’t know how else to say it Raptors fans, but it will take a miracle for the Dinos to even keep pace with the Clippers, let alone beat them.

With that being said, stranger things have happened in the NBA and although things are looking a grim as they ever have any team can win on any given Sunday.

Both Chris Paul and Caron Butler practised on Saturday, and although their statuses are unclear for this match, it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Raps if they had to sit out of this one.

It is also worth noting that if this game gets out of hand quickly, there is still NFL football to be watched....just saying.

Here are three things that the Raptors will need to focus on against the new best team in LA.

1) Own the Glass: Despite having both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on their roster, the L.A. Clippers are only 26th in the league in rebounding, averaging 40.4 rebounds per contest. Although the Raptors only average close to two rebounds more per game than them, they should make it a point to neutralize them on the glass. The numbers favour the Raptors, but containing a team with two imposing big men sounds easier than it is. Griffin has had a minimum of 15 rebounds in each of his games against Toronto last season, and will be very active on the glass in this one. Toronto would do themselves a favour by keeping Ed Davis on Griffin, as he has averaged 10 rebounds over his last three games. Stopping this team from getting offensive rebounds will go a long way in both neutralizing their high-octane offense and setting the tone of this game, which is something that the Raptors will need to do to stay competitive in this one.

2) The Centre Position: With Andrea Bargnani’s status still very much up in the air, the Raptors have been starting a number of people at the centre position. Against Portland, Ed Davis was playing at centre while Amir Johnson was at power forward. However, Johnson missed a majority of the game with a minor knee injury that he sustained after falling to the ground. From that point on, Casey replace him with Aaron Gray and had Davis move over to power forward. Since Friday, Casey has gone on the record saying that every limb in Johnson’s body is banged up and that he has been playing at less than 100 per cent for a while. If Amir is unable to play a lot of minutes, he will once again split time with Gray and I’m just not convinced that Gray will be able to guard either Jordan or Griffin in an effective manner. Regardless of who’s playing where, it will be interesting to see just how Toronto’s frontcourt manages to deal with the Blake-show.

3) Playing for Pride: Something I’ve always been a firm believer of, is that there’s nothing more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose, and the Toronto Raptors certainly fit into that saying. At 4-12 and playing yet another game away from the friendly confines of the Air Canada Center, there is not a single person who believes that Toronto has what it takes to walk away from this one with a W. In yesterday’s Tip-In, Franchise voiced his concerns over the delayed rebuilding process that the team is currently going through, and the team hasn’t done anything to suggest otherwise. However, a win against the Clippers would go a long way in setting the tone for if not the future, at least the next chunk of the season.