As the NBA season surpasses the 80% mark of the schedule, it may not surprise you that the Raptors and Clippers have similar records. What is surprising is that they’re both hovering around .500. With each passing game, the opportunity to climb the standings — and out of the play-in — lessens for each team.
On the flip side, both teams made trades that changed their respective outlooks. For Toronto, Jakob Poeltl’s impact on both ends of the floor has resulted in a higher ceiling and a brighter future (albeit short-term). For Los Angeles, trading away Luke Kennard, John Wall, and Reggie Jackson, while receiving Russell Westbrook, Bones Hyland, and Eric Gordon has yet to yield a positive return. As their core moves further past the age of 30, the pressure to win now has never been higher in Clipperland.
Where to watch
Sportsnet One / ESPN, 10:00PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Los Angeles Clippers — Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
Los Angeles Clippers — Norman Powell (shoulder – out)
The Klaw + Curse = The Klurse
Kawhi Leonard loves playing — and beating — the Toronto Raptors. Not only is he 5-0 when he suits up against his former team, Leonard appears to relish these matchups. This season, Kawhi has sat out seven games that were part of a back-to-back. In five of those games, Kawhi sat out the second game. On October 22, he sat out the first game of a back-to-back because, two nights earlier, he had just played his first game in 493 days (21 minutes off the bench). The only other instance where Leonard sat out the first game of a back-to-back was a late December visit to Detroit and Toronto. By sitting out of the Pistons matchup, Leonard was fresh to play in Toronto and, subsequently, continue tormenting Raptors fans.
Los Angeles Whippers(nappers)
The Clippers have the 2nd-oldest roster in the league. How old are they? Consider this: Fred VanVleet is the oldest starter on the Raptors. If he were to flip teams, he’d be younger than NINE Clippers. Four of Los Angeles’ starters are 31 or older. Their key reserves (based on average minutes) are Norman Powell (29 years old), Eric Gordon (34), Terance Mann (26), Mason Plumlee (34), and Nicolas Batum (34). Experience is obviously a key ingredient for playoff success, but that’s essentially negated when considering the injury history (and declining performance) of some of these players.
Who gets the O.G. Anuno-you-don’t treatment?
It’s safe to say that O.G. Anunoby has fully recovered from his wrist injury as he has returned to the All-Defense level that turned heads earlier this season. Until cloning is figured out, Nick Nurse only has one O.G. to unleash on the Clippers. The question is does he assign Anunoby to Paul George or Kawhi Leonard? In the December 27 matchup, Anunoby spent most of his time guarding Kawhi, holding the former Raptor to one point(!) on 0-for-4 shooting. He did, however, dish out six assists and, more importantly, the Clippers won 124-113. George is coming off a 42-point outing in a win over the Grizzlies on Sunday.