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LA Clippers v Toronto Raptors

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Toronto Raptors vs LA Clippers Final: 127-107

Toronto could not overcome being down two starters as the Clippers rout the Raptors 127-107.

Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

It was Filipino Heritage Night at Scotiabank Arena, which was ironic because the Toronto Raptors played like a team wishing it was on a beach in a warm climate.

The Los Angeles Clippers came into town and defeated the Raptors 127-107, behind a triple-double by James Harden and solid contributions from his Hall of Fame teammates.

The Bearded One finished with 22 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. Paul George, who was playing on a minutes restriction, still finished with 21 points. Russell Westbrook led all reserves with 20 points, 2 steals, and 2 blocks (and a couple of highlight dunks).

Toronto’s leading scorer was Scottie Barnes, who scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. RJ Barrett chipped in with 22 points but was also a game-worst -27. On the flip side, Dennis Schroder was the only Raptor with a positive plus/minus (+4). Whenever Toronto made a push, it was usually with Schroder leading the charge.

It was very ironic for the Raptors to face the Clippers.

With Kawhi Leonard and Norm Powell in town, it’s natural for Raptors fans to reminisce about the championship roster. While Kawhi was the unquestioned star of the starting lineup, Norm was one of many studs to come off a bench that included Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Serge Ibaka. What a difference five years makes.

The Raptors, coming off an embarrassing home loss to the injury-ravaged Grizzlies, had 3 days of rest to prepare. Suffice it to say, they were not prepared.

With Jakob Poeltl still recovering from an ankle sprain and Immanuel Quickley added to the injury report with a right quadricep contusion, Head Coach, Darko Rajakovic, replaced his two starters with Bruce Brown and Thaddeus Young.

The Clippers were without Ivica Zubac, as he was dealing with a calf strain that will keep him out for the next 4 weeks. With both starting Centers absent, the paint was where all the action occurred. By the time Darko called his first timeout, 16 of the first 19 points were scored in the paint as the Clippers led 13-6.

This game was a glimpse into what the Raptors are going to look like for the rest of this season and possibly next. There will be growing pains from young players and chemistry issues as they adapt to new roles. Case and point: Gradey Dick.

Dick was one of the first players off the bench and immediately tried to make an impact. He tried to draw a charge on Kawhi but was a step late and was whistled for a blocking call. Not long after, Dick showed the in-game adjustment needed to survive in the NBA as he planted his feet and stepped in to take an offensive charge on Powell.

The learning continued as Dick tried to block a three-point attempt but landed within Harden’s landing area and was called for a Flagrant-1 foul. On the ensuing possession, Dick collected the steal, led the fastbreak, and threw a perfect alley-oop pass to Barrett.

The Clippers took a 66-52 lead into halftime with Harden leading the way with 17 points and 8 assists. Barrett and Schroder each scored 11 as they tried to keep Toronto afloat.

The second half started the same way the game did with the Clippers showing their superiority yet somehow not breaking a sweat.

Each Clipper seemingly took turns flicking the proverbial switch. While Harden carried the team through the first half, Leonard decided to break a sweat in the third quarter. He had 10 points, including a pair of run-stopping* threes. Kawhi also kept the lid on Barnes, as Scottie was held scoreless, despite playing over 8 minutes in the frame.

*In this game, a Raptors “run” was defined as any instance where they scored in consecutive possessions

As has been the case for most of his young career, Scottie Barnes gave his strongest effort in the fourth quarter. But not until after he made a mistake that cost his team points.

After missing a layup, Barnes complained about a non-call. Meanwhile, Harden walked into a transition three. In a game where Toronto trailed for all but two and a half minutes and was constantly staring at a double-digit deficit, lapses like those by Barnes need to be addressed, especially now that he’s the unquestioned leader of the team.

The Raptors turned up the defensive intensity midway through the final frame in a desperate attempt to make the game watchable. L.A.’s lead oscillated between 19 and 11, but every time it looked like Toronto could get the deficit to single digits, the Clippers would turn to any of their Hall-of-Famers to maintain the edge.

With this latest loss, Toronto drops to 13 games under .500 and further out of a Play-In spot. Before embarking on a 6-game road trip that starts in Atlanta, it’s fair to think that tonight’s game may be the last home game for several Raptors. Outside of Barnes, Barrett, and Quickley, every other Raptor will pop up in trade rumours as the February 8 trade deadline approaches.

This seems like an opportune time to remind you that the Raptors owe a top-6 protected pick to the Spurs (and the Raptors currently have the 6th-worst record in the NBA). As losses like these pile up and the team endures its inevitable turnover, the cries to tank will only grow louder.

For now, the focus shifts to Atlanta on Sunday. The Hawks just dealt with a masterclass by Luka Doncic, who scored the 4th-highest total in NBA history, as he dropped 73 points on the team that drafted and traded him away. The Raptors don’t have the kind of player to do that to an opponent but if they keep losing games with this frequency, they’ll end up drafting high enough to get someone who can.

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