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Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Clippers

Toronto Raptors vs. Los Angeles Clippers Matchup: Welcome back, Norm

The Raptors are getting healthy, but coach Nick Nurse is also figuring out how to utilize his front-end talent best. There’s no better way to test that than against a tough Los Angeles Clippers.

Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

It’s almost game time, and the show will go on with or without Kawhi Leonard. Fortunately for the Raptors fans, Kawhi used his sick day yesterday so that he can make his lone appearance at Scotiabank Arena tonight!

The Toronto Raptors are on a quest to finish the calendar year on a positive note after going through a gruelling December. A six-game skid saw the team drop from the middle of the pack of the standings to near the Wembanyama range. Luckily, the Raptors are starting to get healthier, just in time as Pascal Siakam shifts to another level.

The Raptors are not out of the woods yet, as they currently sit in the 10th place in the East, but they are just 1.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. They are also just 2.5 games away from the play-in range, where they were sitting heading into December.

With Nurse going with Juancho Hernangomez as their fifth starter, things are starting to normalize for the Raptors, especially at the beginning of games. There’s a clear pecking order now and much better spacing for Siakam to operate as the Raptors’ offensive hub.

Scottie Barnes at the middle allows Nurse to utilize him on the post and elbow to do something closer to his strengths. Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby are shooting much better throughout this period, with VanVleet shooting 19-for-38 and Anunoby 10-for-22 from the perimeter.

The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week will have his hands full, as he should see an array of long Clippers defenders forcing the ball out of him. History favours Siakam a little bit, as he averaged 28 points, 15.5 rebounds, and five assists against the Clippers last season. However, when facing a Clippers team with Kawhi, Siakam’s numbers are slightly lower, putting up 20 points, seven rebounds, and 4.5 assists. However, those numbers are stale, as Siakam and Kawhi are much different players now than three years ago.

Speaking of Eastern Conference POTW, and given who will be back in the building tonight, let’s not forget who’s the longest-reigning POTW ever:

Despite Kawhi and Paul George missing time, the Clippers remain on the hunt for the West’s top seed. They are just 2.5 games behind Denver Nuggets and have shown resiliency behind their coach Ty Lue. Just look at what happened late last night, when the Clippers rallied down 14 in the last three minutes, with Lue leaning on his bench. Coach Nick Nurse could only dream of this type of scenario.

Reggie Jackson’s production has taken a step back this season, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a pain in the neck, at the very least, for the Raptors, who struggled to guard him last season, letting a career 34.6% three-point shooter drop trifectas at a 56.3% clip last year.

Fortunately for the Raptors, another old friend might have unintentionally given us a helping hand. Former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and his Detroit Pistons kept the Clippers up late last night, letting the Clippers come back late and magnificently tank the game away in OT. The Clippers are 2-5 on their SEGABABA, and with heavy legs coming into this game, the advantage is on the Raptors’ side. On the flipside, the Clippers are dangerous when both Kawhi and Paul George suit up.

So far, the Raptors are currently winless against the Clippers when Kawhi managed to lace up. Will that trend continue tonight, or can the mad scientist create a way to continue their dominance over the Clippers?

Where to Watch:

SportsNET, NBA TV 7:30pm EST

Starting lineups:

Toronto – Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, Juancho Hernangomez, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes

Los Angeles – Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac

Injuries:

Toronto – Precious Achiuwa (ankle - Doubtful), Otto Porter Jr. (toe - OUT)

Los Angeles – Kawhi Leonard (HEALTHY!), John Wall (Injury Management - OUT), Brandon Boston Jr. (G League - On Assignment), Moussa Diabate (G League - On Assignment), Jason Preston (G League - On Assignment)

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