The last time we spoke the Toronto Raptors were headed out on a roadie, where 10 of 12 games were away from the ACC. Now, the Raptors are playing their second game in a row in LA, their last stop on a five game Western Conference swing against the Clippers.
Both Toronto and LA are coming off recent losses to the seemingly indestructible Warriors. The Raptors hung tough against the defending champs, but ultimately scored nothing more than a "moral victory". Despite Friday's win over the Lakers, Toronto has lost three of its last four games.
The Clippers meanwhile imploded in the final frame against their rivals, the Warriors, dropped the second of a back-to-back against the Trail Blazers, and have now hit the .500 mark at 6-6.
The Clips have dropped six of their last eight, after a starting the season 4-0. Sound familiar? The Raps have the same story. Kicking off the season with a franchise best 5-0 and then accumulating two three-game losing streaks, making this game equally important for two clubs looking for more consistency.
For the Clippers, their consistency is bolstered by the return of J.J. Redick, back in the line-up for the second game, after missing three. Paul Pierce meanwhile has always been pro-extinction for a while now; the long time vet seems to thrive against the Raps. And then of course, there's the whole Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan combination.
The biggest challenge for Toronto, however, is going to be matching up with LA after the loss of Jonas Valanciunas, who broke a bone in his hand Friday. Dwane Casey and the coaching staff have some juggling to do while Valanciunas rehabs his hand.
JV’s absence exposes the lack of depth at the centre position for Toronto. He’s the team’s leading rebounder (Toronto is tied for 10th in the league) and most efficient scorer. Meanwhile, the projected starter, Bismack Biyombo, has never averaged more than 7.3 boards in any of his four NBA seasons.
Since the points just won’t be there with Bismack, it will force the Raps to go with Luis Scola/Patrick Patterson combination, with an increased role for James Johnson. They could also roll-in multiple small ball combinations that could include Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Corey Joseph, or Terrence Ross. (And keep in mind that Lucas Nogueira has already been called up from the 905.)
Finding the right balance will be imperative but it’s going to be difficult, particularly against the Clippers who boast a top three rebounder in Jordan, as well as Blake Griffin.
The pair average 21.4 rebounds of the teams 41.8 (which actually happens to be the 5th lowest total in the league), but have the potential to double-double at a moment’s notice. Griffin and Jordan have simultaneous double-doubles in three games this season.
If Toronto can keep the game close heading into the final frame, they could very well have a slight advantage. The Raptors have reduced opponents shooting efficiency by 2.3 percent in the 4th. Add to that LA going 22 of 66 from the field in the fourth, this game is there for the taking.
Where to Watch: Sportsnet, 3:30pm EST