As Toronto Raptor fans continue to white-knuckle drive towards the trade deadline, the team is slipping further and further down the NBA rankings. Toronto trots into a clash with the LA Clippers on a three-game losing skid, and facing Raptor royalty in Kawhi Leonard isn’t exactly a promising outlook to stop the bleeding.
The Raptors are coming off of a gut-punch loss to the Grizzlies bench where they looked lackadaisical at best and checked-out at worst, which say what you want about this Raptors season but they usually show up looking like they want to be there.
In the Memphis matchup, though, it was the visitors who seemed to be first to every ball and fight harder for every board. Toronto faithful will be hoping that the three days of rest have refuelled the Raptors as they embark on this six-game road swing.
Here are the game details:
How to Watch: Sportsnet, 7:30pm
Toronto: Gary Trent Jr. Dennis Schröder, RJ Barrett, Scottie Barnes, Jontay Porter
LA: Kawhi Leonard, Mason Plumlee, James Harden, Terence Mann, Norm Powell
Toronto: Immanuel Quickley (OUT — thigh contusion), Jakob Poeltl (OUT — ankle sprain)
LA: Paul George (Questionable — groin), Moussa Diabate (OUT), Ivica Zubac (OUT — calf strain)
As for how Toronto will match up with the Clippers, let’s break it down…
The Clippers come into tonight’s game as the top 3-point shooting team in the league, connecting on shots from beyond the arc at a 40.1% rate, and are showing no signs of falling off of that pace. Earlier this week, the Clippers beat the Lakers and shot 51.9% from distance. In short, it would be in the Raptors best interest to not let LA get going in the 3-point department, because when that happens, opponents tend to be in for a very long night.
Unfortunately for the Toronto faithful, the Raptors rank 23rd in 3-point defense. Toronto is giving up an average of 13.2 triples per game, which is ironically the exact number of distance shots made by the Clippers game in and game out.
I’m hesitant to say this game will come down to what happens from beyond the arc, knowing the other areas where this Raptors team finds itself vulnerable, but what is for sure is that if Toronto can’t limit the damage from distance, they will be hard pressed to leave LA with the win.
As Toronto have started to lose key pieces in trades (Anunoby, Siakam) and injury (Poetl) the defense has, at times, more closely resembled Swiss cheese than an NBA defense. Heading into tonight the Clippers rank better in all but two defensive categories; offensive rebounds and personal fouls.
While most statistical categories have a minor difference, the Clippers are allowing on average 6 less points in the paint to opponents; and with the Raptors still without big man Jakob Poetl the paint is certainly at risk for LA domination. As it stands the Clippers are putting up 50.9 points in the paint per game, with margin to grow as the Raptors are allowing just over 53.
The result of this next Raptors reunion game might not be promising but hey, the fans can get on board with tankathon sooner rather than later.