Team Records: Toronto 22-7, LA Clippers 20-10
Where to Watch: Sportsnet Regional (all regions), 3:30 p.m. EST
So there’s the shooting tandem in Golden State, a rising star in Portland, a grinding core peaking in Memphis, and some fresh faces in Texas. With all this cool stuff happening out west, it’s kind of easy to forget about the Los Angeles Clippers, isn’t it?
They might prefer it that way. The Clippers, a preseason pick to win it all, have had remarkable success at home with a 12-3 record and eight straight wins coming into this afternoon. Despite this, their season overall has been filled with ups and downs.
The ups, like their Christmas Day win against the league-best Golden State Warriors, have been great. The lows, like losses in December to Milwaukee, Atlanta and Denver… not so much.
This is a team still figuring it out on defense. They give up 100.8 points per game, 19th in the league, which is far from the hallmark of a Doc Rivers-coached team. Their bench, despite having many respected NBA names, has struggled to stay healthy and, overall, has been underwhelming. Their win against the Warriors, where they held an explosive team to 86 points, was a step in the right direction. They’ll look to continue against the Raptors.
Toronto has had four days to figure out their own defensive woes, after giving up an all-time high 49 points in the fourth quarter to the Chicago Bulls on Monday. The Raptors are 3-2 so far this season against Western Conference teams above .500. With matchups against the top two teams in the league, Portland and Golden State, also ahead this week, we’re reminded again how tough this stretch really is for the Raptors (and how easy the schedule has been thus far).
The leader of the Raptors efforts, Kyle Lowry, has shown uncharacteristic struggles against the Clippers. In the last four games against them, he’s averaged just 9.3 points on 28 per cent shooting. That was okay last season in Toronto’s close game against the Clippers because, you know, this happened.
Unless Ross wants to go for 50 again, the Raptors will need a lot more from their point guard this afternoon. DeMar DeRozan is still sidelined and Landry Fields, who had hoped to return today, has again failed concussion protocol and will not play. Spencer Hawes won’t play for the Clippers, and hopefully will come dressed better than this.
What will you be watching for?