Things looked promising for the Toronto Raptors early in their game against the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. They forced 7 turnovers in the opening frame, jumping out to a 25-15 lead after one — and then sleepwalked through the remaining three quarters, eventually dropping a 108-100 decision to the home team.
Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes combined for 40 points, 9 assists and 11 rebounds, but it took them 42 shots to get there. O.G. Anunoby dropped 18, and shot 4-for-7 from downtown.
Kawhi Leonard scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to pace the Clippers. Paul George added 23, and Ivica Zubac chipped in 17 points and 8 boards.
This game really came down to two things. One, other than forcing those early turnovers, the Raptors simply couldn’t stop the Clippers, who shot 63% through the first three quarters and led by nine heading into the fourth — despite shooting 16 more shots than their opponents.
And two, the Raptors got next-to-nothing form their bench, with Precious Achiuwa and Gary Trent combining for all of two points through three quarters.
As it has so many times this season, it was the third quarter that undid the Raptors. For the period they were outscored 34-25 and gave up 73% shooting to the Clippers, who also assisted on 11 of their 14 made field goals in the frame.
Coming out of the break tied at 49, the Clippers started the second half on a 9-4 run, and eventually stretched their lead to 62-57 after a Leonard dunk, prompting head coach Nick Nurse to call an early timeout. The Clippers extended the lead to 70-62 after a George three, as once again the Raptors found themselves in one of their patented offensive droughts, this one coming against one of the league’s poorer defensive teams.
An Anunoby three and a Siakam and-1 got the lead back down to two, but the team proceeded to give up a wide-open corner three to Eric Gordon that started a 7-0 Clippers run, giving them the 77-68 lead.
Trent came alive a bit in the fourth, scoring the team’s first five points of the quarter. A Chris Boucher three cut the lead to five with 9 minutes to go, but Paul George calmly settled his team down, scoring 6 in the frame. A late rally didn’t even truly approach fake comeback territory.
Boucher scored 14 off the bench.
The Clippers couldn’t take care of the ball early, with three turnovers in the first five minutes. That, and two missed, wide-open corner threes from Russell Westbrook — only opening the door to more “Russell Westbrook is ruining the Clippers” discourse — helped the Raptors jump out to an early 11-4 lead.
Raptors were particularly disrespectful to Westbrook early, giving him a ton of space and denying Leonard and George, while targeting him in the pick-and-roll on the offensive end. The Clippers did score four straight after Eric Gordon subbed in for Westbrook, but two more turnovers forced Ty Lue to call his second timeout of the quarter.
Another turnover led to an Anunoby runout reverse, giving the Raptors a 20-11 lead.
Other than transition, Raptors couldn’t get anything going on offense themselves. The Clippers started the second on a 7-0 run, but two Boucher buckets, the second a vicious dunk after cleaning up a loose ball, put the Raptors back up 29-24. The Clippers finally tied it up at 31 after two George free throws and a Terance Mann layup. The Raptors ran off a little 7-2 run in response, but George tied it again at 41 a few plays later. A Leonard dunk just before the two-minute mark gave the Clippers their first lead, 43-41.
Fred VanVleet drained two threes over the final two minutes, but the Raptors once again botched the quarter-ending 2-for-1, missing both ends of the “two” and letting Leonard drain a three on the “one.” The two teams went to the half tied at 49.
Next up, the Raptors play the Los Angeles Lakers in the same place on Friday night.