Fresh off a Vince Carter reunion in Sacramento, the Raptors face off against another familiar face in the Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams, former Sixth Man of the Year and recipient of a personalized Drake love song. After his last game in which he dropped 35 points, including a game winner, expect Lou Will and company to keep the momentum going against this rolling Raptors squad, who have now won six in a row.
The Raptors may have pulled off the victory against the Kings, but it wasn’t without its flaws. Toronto connected on only 30 percent of their three-point attempts, including less-than-stellar offensive performances from C.J. Miles and Kyle Lowry, who shot just 20 percent combined from downtown. Thankfully, Miles redeemed himself by chipping in five steals, while Lowry contributed twelve rebounds and six assists. However, those offensive numbers need to revert to the mean if the Raptors are going to capitalize on their game plan — move the ball, chuck threes, and let DeMar DeRozan do his thing.
So far, the Raptors have fared well on back-to-backs this season, winning the latter game both times the situation arose. I would like to see an energetic start to tonight’s matchup against the Clippers, especially considering the extended break between games when compared to other back-to-backs (3:30pm start on Sunday, 10:30pm start on Monday).
While inevitable, it’s still unfortunate to see injuries take down some of the league’s most exciting players. Many predicted the Clippers to be a middling, yet dazzling team in the Western Conference; now, with a record of just 9-15 after losing three starters to injuries, a season of tanking is all but guaranteed. The prospect of Lob City 2.0 featuring the baptizing Blake Griffin and maestro Milos Teodosic is over. Instead, we have to settle for watching Austin Rivers put up a career-high in minutes per game while DeAndre Jordan deals with omnipresent trade rumours. Oh well.
Without further ado, here are your details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch
Raptors – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Clippers – Austin Rivers, Sindarius Thornwell, Wesley Johnson, Danilo Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan
Raptors – Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira
Clippers – Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic
(UPDATE: Milos Teodosic will return tonight and replace Danilo Gallinari in the starting lineup, who is injured.)
Good Three-Point Shooting is Good
As previously mentioned, the Raptors are going to have to shoot much better than they did yesterday to take advantage of all the open looks their generating from deep. On the season, both the Raps and Clippers shoot around the same percentage from three-point land (35.7% for the Raptors, 35.9% for the Clippers). Simply put, Lowry and Miles will have to perform much better offensively tonight. They average 41.9% and 38.1% from three respectively, so if they can continue to move off the ball and get open looks, I’m confident they’ll get their mojo back.
The Raptors must also look to contain Lou Williams and his barrage of long distance bombs. To accomplish this task, I would expect Fred VanVleet to apply his pesky defense on Lou Will. Fred is scrappy and hustles relentlessly on the defensive end — come to think of it, he’s kind of the Raptors’ version of Patrick Beverley.
Keep the Ball Moving
The Raptors’ new-and-improved offense culminates in regularly putting up the fifth-most assists per night in the NBA. The Clippers — sans Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley — are, needless to say, struggling in that area. It may sound simplistic to say, but the Raptors should look to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
This isn’t last year’s Clippers team — they’ve sorely missed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, their premier perimeter defender. Now, they sport the league’s fifth-worst opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage. If the Raptors can hit their open looks created with their regular ball movement, they should be in good shape.
Grab the Board
Of course, the Raptors aren’t going to be better than the Clippers at everything. DeAndre Jordan and company rebound the ball quite well on the offensive end, an area in which the Raptors have had a history of ineptitude, this season included. Jonas Valanciunas is likely going to get an extended run in this game, due to DeAndre’s old-school playing style.
Of course, Jordan is athletically gifted and uses that to his advantage, throwing down lobs whenever he can, while Valanciunas is, *cough*, less adept in that facet of the game. He’ll need some help on the inside, hopefully coming from wunderkinds Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. The Raptors will need their energy if they’re going to come up with the W tonight.