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Raptors lose 123-115 to the schedule and to the Clippers

This impossible run of games continues.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We should’ve seen that coming. Despite their best efforts on a back-to-back and on the heels of a botched call against the Kings, the Raptors fought valiantly, but ultimately lost 123-115 to the Los Angeles Clippers. You can chalk this one up as a schedule loss, but it stings a little nonetheless, especially when you thought they might’ve had a chance when they made their comeback. It’s the hope that kills you.

For the first time in a long while, the Raptors actually opened the game with a solid defensive effort. Though most of that could be attributed to the Clippers’ own lethargic start than a particularly great job done by the Raptors, opening up a small advantage for the majority of the quarter and holding the Clippers to a 23-19 lead was a sign of progress for the much-maligned starting unit.

Of course, that was as good as things would get defensively, as the Raptors game plan began to unravel slowly, starting with Jamal Crawford leading the Clippers’ improved bench unit with a series of circus shots, and-1s, buzzer beaters, fouls on three point attempts, etc.

The Raptors had no answer for the Clippers starting lineup. A 9-point Clipper lead at half time stretched out to the mid-teens, with the Raptors surrendering a basket on seemingly every possession. Dwane Casey even pulled out the Hack-a-Jordan to prolong our torture for the night to try and reel the Clippers in a little. DeAndre Jordan, to his credit, refused to comply with that game-plan, as he shot 9-of-14 from the line. He is a 44% FT shooter on the season. As a hater of the hacking strategy, I’m glad he shot it well.

We’ve come to expect relentless effort out of the Raptors, and despite the gruelling nature of the recent schedule and the hole they were in today, they still managed to make a game of this in the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan and the bench unit cut the lead to nine against the Clippers’ bench heading into the final frame, and Kyle Lowry and the bench further whittled that lead down to five. Then, the Clippers starters checked back in and the Raptors had no answer once again. At one point, the Clips scored on nine consecutive possessions, and despite Lowry’s best efforts to pull a heroic victory out of thin air, it just wasn’t to be tonight.

Some thoughts:

  • Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are wonderful players. Paul was toying with the Raptors defence. You got the sense that you were watching a player with the most intuitive knowledge of manipulating space and attacking weaknesses on offence, and absolutely hounding whoever he defended on the other end. 26 points and 12 assists for him on 14 shots.
  • It’s good to see Blake Griffin healthy. He had 26-7-7 and few other big men can operate and offence the way he does (maybe Marc Gasol?). The damn Clippers run mid-post PnR actions with Griffin and Jordan. How the hell do you stop that when a player has the dexterity of Blake Griffin.
  • Kyle Lowry forever. DeMar DeRozan has deserved the credit for his hot start, but Lowry remains the heartbeat of this team. He had 27 points on 18 shots, but he was the engine behind the Raptors’ come back, and drags his teammates’ level up along with him. That one sequence where he defended Griffin in the post with all that he had, knocked the ball away, killed the shot clock, only for a teammate to lose Chris Paul on the switch for an open 3 encapsulates everything about this team.
  • Good to see Patrick Patterson seeing the positive style regression on his shooting. He was 3-6 from three, and had 14 points on the night.
  • That’s 8 straight games of 100+ points allowed. The Raptors’ defence has been really bad.
  • At some point, we’re going to have to start talking about Lowry’s minutes
  • Dwane Casey really tried all he could to get some defensive solidity. He went ultra small with Patrick Patterson and Norm Powell as the de-facto 4-5 combo (poor Norm got eviscerated by Mareese Speights). He went back to Pascal Siakam for a short fourth quarter spell. Valanciunas got a look in crunch time. Nothing was working.

So, a day off and the Raptors take another flight and head to Houston to face rampant James Harden and the Rockets. That won’t be easy, but you already know to expect that by now.