The Toronto Raptors will tip-off their four-game west coast trip tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s a special night at the Staples Center as it’s Canadian Heritage Night. Good to see the Clippers’ organization giving Canadians (and their young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) some love.
I've been Canadian forever but I have no idea where to start on Canadian Heritage Night. It's our blessing & curse: what defines us? I'd argue naan bread, roti & hoops as much as maple syrup pierogies and puck. Good problems to have ...I'm sure the Clips will solve them. https://t.co/ukD4kumft1— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 10, 2018
The big story surrounding this game is the status of Kawhi Leonard. Toronto confirmed beforehand that Leonard will be held out of tonight’s game. He is dealing with a bruised right hip injury.
He was expected to play in tonight’s game, with the status of his availability being up in the air for tomorrow night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, per assistant coach Adrian Griffin.
Assistant coach Adrian Griffin, who's filling in for Nurse this morning, says he expects Kawhi to play vs the Clippers tonight (first game of the back-to-back). As for his availability tomorrow vs Golden State, he says that's out of his department.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 11, 2018
(Griffin was filling in for head coach Nick Nurse because Nurse’s mother had passed away the night before in Iowa.)
This four-game road trip came at the worst time as the Raptors are somewhat struggling. Toronto has lost three of their previous four games, falling to the Denver Nuggets last Monday, the Brooklyn Nets last Friday, and the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. All were winnable games but the Raptors have struggled to capitalize on their late-game possessions. On top of all this, Kyle Lowry has been in an offensive slump. His shot-making isn’t there — though that isn’t limiting what Lowry can do. He is still making an impact on the defensive end, making hustle plays, and continuing to lead the team. Lowry is due for a big offensive night, so let’s just hope tonight’s the night.
Luckily for the Raptors, the Clippers are on the back-end of a back-to-back after escaping with a 123-119 OT win against the Phoenix Suns last night. They will also be without Lou Williams, out with a hamstring injury. Still, the Clips have looked great through their 26 games of the season. They’re 17-9 on the season, good for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
Much like, Toronto, L.A. has solid guard and forward depth and will match-up well tonight against the number one team in the Eastern Conference. With guys like Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, and Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers have strong defensive players. With Lowry, Danny Green, Delon Wright, and tonight’s starter Fred VanVleet, the Raptors may still have the edge in the backcourt.
With Leonard out, Toronto will need to turn their attention to the Clippers’ forwards as Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and noted Raptor-killer Montrezl Harrell, have the ability to take over a game. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas will have their hands full in containing those guys.
As tough as it has been for the Raptors, they will need to bring out their A-game when taking on this feisty Clippers team.
Alas, here is Daniel Reynolds’ full preview for tonight’s game and the game details below.
Where to Watch:
10:30 p.m. EST on Sportsnet One
Toronto - Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Los Angeles - Avery Bradley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat
Toronto - Norman Powell (shoulder - out), Kawhi Leonard (hip - out)
Los Angeles - Lou Williams (hamstring - out), Luc Mbah a Moute (knee - out), Jerome Williams (foot - out)