As the seconds ticked away, Fred VanVleet made the hustle play on the offensive end, and Precious Achiuwa made the defensive stand on the other end and the Toronto Raptors finished their six-game road trip with a 103-00 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s the Raptors’ fifth straight win — and the first time the team has ever one five straight games on a single road trip. The W also pulls the Raptors into a tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Pascal led the Raptors with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
The game was close throughout, with the Raptors clinging to a single digit lead most of the night, as the feisty Clippers refused to go away. Every time the Raptors stretched the lead to seven or nine, the Clippers would claw right back. That’s how the Raptors found themselves up by just a single point, 101-100 with 30 seconds to play.
WIth Scottie Barnes handling the rock up top, he made a rookie mistake, floating a soft pass, cross-court and off target too, to Fred VanVleet. VanVleet and Terance Mann scrambled for the rock, with VanVleet stepping out of bounds… only to be bailed out by a week loose ball foul call on Mann.
From there, Fred hit his first throw and missed the second, but Scottie Barnes was there to poke the ball into the air, where VanVleet could recover it. Fouled intentionally to stop the clock, VanVleet again split a pair, giving the Clippers the ball, down three, with six seconds to go.
That’s where Precious Achiuwa stepped up, sticking to Marcus Morris like glue and forcing Morris into a desperation heave as time expired.
VanVleet finished with 21 points, while Achiuwa chipped in 11 off the bench.
Reggie Jackson led the way for the Clippers, with 23 points (including 4-of-8 shooting from downtown) and nine assists. Morris finished with 22/7/6.
But the story of the night was Siakam, who piled up his 31 points on 22 shots, and added three assists and a steal to the stat sheet. The Clippers consistently left sub-par defenders like Luke Kennard and Isaiah Hartenstein to guard Siakam alone, and double-teams consistently came late, giving Siakam the advantage.
The saying “the game is slowing down for him is over-used, but it sure seems to the right way to describe how Siakam is playing right now. He’s just confidently getting to his spots, using all the tools in his toolbox — the spin, the up-and-under, the baby hook — to score while keeping defenders off balance. And his touch at rim feels like it’s light-years better than last year, where it seemed every shot was rolling off the rim.
One of the most encouraging things about this recent Siakam run: his jumper is back. He's taking 'em, and he's making 'em.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 17, 2022
Last 7 games: 14-for-28 from 3 (he's made 2+ in 6 of 7 games and attempted 3+ in all 7).
Previous 7 games: 1-for-12 (attempted 2 or fewer in 6 of 7).
I know it’s too much to ask for anyone to forget Siakam’s play in the bubble and in Tampa, but I do hope that this Siakam is indeed the norm, and the pandemic was a blip that happened in an extremely not-normal world.
The Raptors opened the game on a 9-2 run, with back-to-back three pointers from VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., who was questionable earlier in the day with a non-COVID illness. VanVleet was also a late confirmation, and his knee looked to be bothering him tonight — he was definitely a step slow on defense.
The Clippers soon tied the game up at 14, and that’s pretty much how the rest of the night went.
The Raptors did pull away at one point, using 20-3 run bridging halftime to push their lead to 59-44.
But the Raptors went cold in the fourth, and the Clippers again clawed back. Although the Raptors’ subs were ultimately fine, it was a scary few minutes as the Clippers methodically chipped away — and the Raptors couldn’t get anything going on offense. A Terance Mann-to-Isaiah Hartenstein alley-app and a Mann three cut the lead to two early in the frame.
But the return of VanVleet and Siakam in the fourth sparked a 10-2 Raptors run, including a Boucher and-1 followed by a monster one-hand jam from Scottie Barnes pushed it back to 7; an Achiuwa three and a sweet Siakam spin pushed it all the way to 10 before Ty Lue called timeout to stop the bleeding.
Trailing 93-83, the Clippers went on a 7-0 run capped by a Marcus Morris three. But an off-balance 16-footer from Fred VanVleet (that touched every inch of the rim) stopped the bleeding, and the Clippers would ultimately never lead in the fourth quarter.
Up next: The Raptors return home to take on the Lakers on Friday night.