How many moments throughout this tumultuous Toronto Raptors’ season have felt extremely important? The answer feels pretty high, but here they are again, having just played one of their best games of the season against one of, if not the best teams in the league that, unfortunately, resulted in a close loss. As good a loss as Toronto has seen, having thoroughly outplayed every human in a non-Raptors uniform with the exception of Scott Foster. If Toronto were to ever capitalize on a moment, this would be a very good time to do so, as they’re currently locked in a play-in, battle royale with 16-games remaining in the schedule and have looked closer to the Raptors team faithful fans have expected since the arrival of Jakob Poeltl. Momentum is key and the vibes seem right!
Fortunately, Toronto gets to take those vibes to sunny Los Angeles to take on the Clippers who are in the midst of a pretty ugly skid. Since being traded, newly minted Clipper Russell Westbrook has been, well, playing just about as expected (see: not very well). The mass-media-machine’s pendulum has certainly swung too far in the direction of Russ being considered a non-impact player, but you’d have to think that the litany of coaches he’s had over the last couple of years would understand his strengths and weaknesses by now. For instance, Russ is shooting 29% from the three point line this year, and yet, Tyronn Lue has consistently surrounded Westbrook with non-shooters in his not-yet-set rotations. Raptors fans can hope that Lue is still tinkering and doesn’t land on a winning formula — one that seems painfully clear for how to utilize Westbrook — for at least another game.
Westbrook’s positive or negative impact could all be moot, as, Los Angeles still boasts two extremely dangerous weapons in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. George has long been a Raptor killer and is one of the best two-way players in the league, while Kawhi, well, he might not have consistency on the defensive end any longer, but he’s still an elite scorer from anywhere on the floor and Toronto will have it’s hands full with those two tonight. Another issue that Toronto had the last time these two teams met was Ivica Zubac, who slapped together a tidy 23 point, 16 rebound night. Zubac should be much better contained this time around thanks to Toronto, you know, finally having a centre.
So buckle up and grab a coffee for the 10:00 PM tipoff time, folks!
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 10 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Los Angeles Clippers — Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out), Will Barton (non-COVID illness – questionable)
Los Angeles Clippers — Norman Powell (shoulder – out)