Looking ahead on the schedule about a week or two ago, many Toronto Raptors fans pegged this meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers as good timing. All-world point guard Chris Paul would still be out when the Clippers made their solitary regular season trip to Toronto, something that could only help, as the floundering Raptors continue to search for answers.
With another loss to the Orlando Magic in the books, followed by a sloppy win over the Brooklyn Nets, and this game isn’t looking like the semi-boon it might have been just a short time ago — it’s looking like a mini mid-season Kilimanjaro.
Here are your keys to the game.
O, Cory Joseph
Given his first ever non-rest related DNP-CD versus the Nets on Sunday, it will be interesting to see what’s up with the relationship between Coach Dwane Casey and Joseph, a former stalwart in his rotation.
On first glance, it may appear to the casual fan that Joseph has been much the same player as last season, and even an improved three point shooter. But the reality is, if you’re watching most games, and when you dive deeper into the statistics, Joseph has struggled mightily this year, and hasn’t provided the same spark off the bench that made him so invaluable in 2015-16.
His defensive box plus/minus has dropped to -1.1 and his overall box plus/minus of -1.7 ties him with Jonas Valanciunas and Norman Powell for worst among Raptors regulars.
Joseph is far from the lone player to blame, but unfortunately for him, he primarily plays the position where Toronto has the most organizational depth, and can afford to try something new. Some have wondered if the tactic might be to showcase Fred VanVleet for a trade, but given the Raptors struggles lately, I think that’s highly unlikely to be the primary goal behind Joseph’s drop in playing time. Here’s hoping he gets back into the rotation tonight and responds positively.
The Big Two: Blake and DeAndre
Even without Chris Paul, the Clippers have a formidable duo on the roster. Both play in the front-court, which coincidentally is Toronto’s biggest defensive weakness (of many right now it seems), particularly if Patrick Patterson is still sidelined. Patterson was listed as questionable versus the Nets yesterday after going through a partial-practice, but didn’t play.
The Clippers are 1-4 since Griffin returned from his own 18 game absence, so it’s not as if they’re exactly firing on all cylinders; they have had some tough opponents however, taking on the Golden State Warriors twice, and losing a close one to the Boston Celtics yesterday.
If Patterson is still out, slowing the Clippers big man duo is going to be a task that falls to Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira and...? Jared Sullinger? Jakob Poeltl? Pascal Siakam?
Toronto could get creative and go small with DeMarre Carroll at the 4, but seriously, here’s to 2Pat’s health.
The Return of DeMar DeRozan?
It’s a simple question: will we see him tonight? After this team couldn’t allow Kyle Lowry to get any rest at all, even against the lowly Nets, it would certainly go a long way towards restoring some type of normalcy in the Raptors rotation.
DeRozan warmed up before yesterday’s game with Brooklyn, so things are look positive. However, there was speculation on yesterday’s radio broadcast that he could be held out tonight and Wednesday’s game against Minnesota, as Toronto then has a rare three day break before taking on the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
While this would be the ideal course of action if things were going swimmingly, I can’t see this being the choice made, unless DeRozan is truly still hurting.
What do you think will happen tonight?
Where to watch: TSN, 7:30pm