Wednesday basketball at 10:30 p.m. ET! Boy, there’s nothing better than a prolonged West coast trip to completely throw your sleep schedule off, right? And on the week daylight savings ends, too! Not just good times, great times.
Alas, no one came here to listen a blogger complain about having to stay up late to cover a game. You came here to hear all about how your beloved Toronto Raptors are going to take the sixth seed from the Cleveland Cavaliers... and maybe, just maybe... climb all the way into fifth!
Look, I’m not saying it’s likely. And I’ve been more pessimistic than most about the Raptors’ chances this season. BUT. I can’t help but feel the pangs of optimism when seeing that the Raptors are just a game back of the Cavs, and the Cavs are missing their All-Star centre. The red-hot Boston Celtics are currently in fifth, but they’re set to overtake the suddenly-mediocre Chicago Bulls any day now for fourth.
And can’t the Raptors overtake the Bulls? Both are 8-7 since the break. The Bulls are currently three games up on the Raptors. The teams have one more head-to-head matchup, next week. The Bulls have a tougher schedule. The Raptors should be getting OG Anunoby back any day now.
It’s possible... right??
Of course, for that to happen, the Raptors need every win they can get. Starting tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers!
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 10:30 p.m.
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Khem Birch, Scottie Barnes, Pascal SIakam
Los Angeles — Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann
Toronto – Malachi Flynn (hamstring – out), OG Anunoby (finger – questionable), Fred VanVleet (knee – probable)
Los Angeles — Paul George (elbow – out), Kawhi Leonard (knee – out), Norman Powell (foot – out), Jason Preston (foot – out), Jay Scrubb (foot – out)
Not scared, not one iota
The Scottie Barnes Experience has kicked into overdrive this week, hasn’t it? Not only is the kid putting up amazing numbers...
Since All-Star break Scottie Barnes is averaging 19.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals & a block on 57% shooting. For the year he's 1st in rookie scoring; 1st in WinShares; 1st in minutes & 1st in Orebs. He's second in steals and third in total rebounding. He turns 21 in August.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) March 15, 2022
... he’s showing absolutely no fear going up against the game’s best, and delightfully getting under their skin in the process.
On Saturday, he used his seemingly never-ending energy reserve to annoy and body up Nikola Jokic so effectively that the MVP started throwing cheap shots at him. On Monday, he did the same against LeBron James, causing James to whip a ball at him in frustration (under the guise of saving said ball from going out of bounds).
It’s going to be tough for Barnes to win Rookie of the Year — Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley have great cases — but good on Barnes for making this late push, and for not backing down against the greats.
Has the Ty Lue debate ended yet?
The Clippers have been missing their two best players most of the season, barely got glimpse at Norm Powell, Marcus Morris missed 20 games, Eric Bledsoe is prominently involved... and yet they’re somehow a game over .500.
I know I’m not the only one who thought perhaps Tyronn Lue was an overrated coach after his stint in Cleveland. After all, it sure seemed like LeBron James was the straw that stirred that drink.
But Lue is doing an amazing job in LA, keeping this team competitive despite the injuries and exceedingly flawed roster.
But what do the Clippers do well?
This is the part of the preview where I usually look at the stats and see what it is the other team does well, and then write about what the Raptors need to do to counter. But it doesn’t seem like the Clippers do anything particularly well; they’re not in the top 10 in any statistical categories! I mean, I guess that makes sense with a 36-35 record, but still... you’d think there would be one thing that stands out.
Looking at the betting lines for today’s game, the Raptors are 1.5-point favourites, which again tells you this is a close matchup, even if the stats don’t support it. The Clippers are 20-14 at home, which isn’t bad, I guess?
The other factor working against the Raptors: It’s game six of a six-game road trip. They’re probably itching to get back home and sleep in their own beds for a couple of nights (before heading back out on the road for two more games). Tonight’s game as big “trap game potential! Don’t be surprised if the Raps come out a little flat.
If that’s the case, hopefully they wake up late and steal this one away. A win tonight would certainly help that “fifth in the East” prediction...!