Before a six-game road trip against NBA powerhouses, many Raptors players talked about seizing the opportunity to prove their worth. On Saturday afternoon, they did just that.
Anchored by a 61 point second half, the Toronto Raptors beat the Los Angeles Clippers 110-98, ending the Clippers home win streak at eight games. The win propels the Raptors to 23-7, while Los Angeles falls to 20-11. Facing a high octane, athletic offence, Toronto allowed just 98 points and are now 12-0 when allowing 100 points or less this season.
The Raptors starters were phenomenal all afternoon. Kyle Lowry was equal parts efficient and overwhelming, putting in 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting, adding seven assists, three rebounds and three steals. In the third quarter, Lowry pushed Toronto's lead to eight with a solo 7-0 run. They never trailed after.
After a confident effort in Chicago, Jonas Valanciunas was again Toronto’s anchor. Valanciunas had 22 points and 11 rebounds, five of them offensive, and put up a +14 mark. James Johnson, Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson made less impact on the stat sheet, but were spot-on with their defensive rotations.
The starters were so good, by the time Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams joined the party in the second half, the team looked darn near unbeatable. Vasquez was equal parts frustrating and helpful on his way to 16 points, six assists and four rebounds. To his credit, though, he dropped two 3-pointers in the fourth to push the Raptors lead into double digits.
On the Clippers end, the bench that’s given Doc Rivers fits this season ended up being a pivotal part of Saturday’s loss. With a backcourt of Jamal Crawford, Reggie Bullock and Hedo Turkoglu on the floor at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Raptors bench, as you’d expect, took full advantage. The Clippers starters weren’t much better, though. J.J. Redick found himself open quite a bit, dropping 23 points to lead his team. Blake Griffin had 22 points, but 12 of those came in the first quarter, as he disappeared down the stretch. Chris Paul was weirdly quiet, scoring just 10 points with eight assists.
For the Raptors, it’s their first road win against the Clippers since November 13, 2009. The Clippers in the Chris Paul era have been phenomenal on their home floor, and the Toronto win is all the more important when you consider their game tomorrow night in Denver.
The six-game "death trip" (I coined that one myself, feel free to use it) concludes after that with games in Portland, Golden State and Phoenix.
What were your takeaways from this one?