The Raptors picked up a surprising win over the Lakers on Sunday night, keeping LeBron James to 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting (he had 15 assists) and limiting L.A.’s 3-point shooters to 10-for-30 shooting. It moved them to 2-0 on their five-game road trip and gave them their first win since losing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to injury.
Now all they’ve got to do it repeat that process against just as difficult a foe, the Clippers.
This will mark the first game Kawhi Leonard plays against the team he helped to the 2019 championship. For all the hand-wringing over Leonard and his load management, fact is, he has been just what the Clippers hoped, averaging 29.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists, all career highs and all in just 30.9 minutes. He’s struggled with his shooting in his last two games (18-for-49 from the field, 2-for-13 from the 3-point line) but he has been the fulcrum of the league’s No. 6 offense.
As the Clippers await the imminent return of Paul George, Leonard has had help from the league’s best bench, where guard Lou Williams (22.4 points) and center Montrezl Harrell (20.4 points) have been dueling Sixth Man of the Year candidates. That’s a good place to start looking closer at this matchup against the Raptors.
Raptors vs. Clippers Preview
As with the Lakers, who favor post-ups in their offense, one of the Clippers’ bread-and-butter offensive looks (pick-and-roll) is one of the Raptors’ defensive strengths.
The Clippers get 27.8 points per game out of the PNR, second in the NBA. They’re not particularly efficient at running the play, at 0.86 points per possession, but they hammer opponents with it and have the No. 4 (Williams) and No. 7 (Leonard) scorers in the league as PNR ballhandlers.
Toronto, though, allows 14.3 pick-and-roll points per game, which is sixth in the league. The Raptors allow just 40.2 percent shooting to PNR ballhandlers and only 0.75 points per possession on the play, both of which rank fourth in the league. That could force the Clippers into making spot-up shots, which has not been a strong suit thus far: L.A. makes 34.2 percent on spot-ups, 24th in the league.
The Raptors have two problems here, though. First, they’re on the second night of a back-to-back though it’s not a typical back-to-back—both games being at the Staples Center, there was no late-night flight or early-morning hotel check-in. Still, shorthanded and with a victory in sight, coach Nike Nurse rode his best players, with Pascal Siakam playing 42 minutes (a season-high) and Marc Gasol playing 33 (second-most this season).
Second, the Raptors will ask their bench corps to repeat the incredible performance they put up against the Lakers, when Chris Boucher (15 points) and rookie Terence Davis (13) had career-highs and the second unit combined to score 43 points on 18-for-29 (62.1 percent) shooting.
Against the Clippers’ depth, that’s what it’ll take to get a win and, probably, to cover the 10.5-point spread. It’s hard to see the Raps reserves repeating that kind of effort. Advantage: L.A.
Raptors vs. Clippers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Clippers, -10.5.
SCORE PREDICTION: Clippers 112, Raptors 100