We’ve all had this day circled on the calendar since it was announced prior to the start of the 2019-20 NBA year. The Raptors entered the season as the defending champions. They also entered as a totally different team — a core of familiar players, yes, but missing the man who brought them all together. And despite everything Toronto did to put themselves in a position to succeed, despite even what we’ve said before, make no mistake: it was Kawhi Leonard who muscled the Raptors across the finish line.
So, while tonight will be a competition featuring the Raptors and the Clippers, it’s also a celebration. It may in fact be the last one we can rightly have on a large scale in the Scotiabank Arena to mark the occasion of Toronto’s NBA title. Kawhi is here, he’ll receive his championship ring, and we have reason to publicly remember and acknowledge what happened. Sure, we’ll never forget, but we will have to move on.
On that note, it’s worth noting that for tonight’s game the Raptors will be without the services of Fred VanVleet. He’s missing his second straight game after suffering a knee contusion (on Sunday) that kept him out of Monday night’s contest against the Bulls. That’s a blow to Toronto’s desire for continuity, but good on Fred for getting his health right. On the flip side, the Raptors will welcome chaos engine Patrick McCaw back to the lineup tonight. The plan was for McCaw to be slotted into Toronto’s back-up point guard spot, so now (with FVV injured) it will definitely be his chance to show why.
Still, that’s merely foreground. Try as they might to deny it, tonight will be about Kawhi in Toronto, celebrating the 2019 title, and then, hopefully, seeing the Raptors collect a win against their former teammate. Whatever happens, it’s bound to be an emotional evening.
Here’s the full preview from Dylan Litman this morning. Below are the updated game details. Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
TSN 1/4/5 at 7:00pm EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Los Angeles – Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Moe Harkless, Ivica Zubac
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (out – knee), Stanley Johnson (out – groin), Matt Thomas (out – finger)
Los Angeles – Rodney McGruder (out – hamstring), Landry Shamet (out – ankle), JaMychal Green (doubtful – tailbone)