Toronto Raptors (26-23) at Los Angeles Clippers (34-18): 3 keys to a tough victory

The Toronto Raptors complete their Western swing with a rematch against the Clippers in the City of Angels. The first game against these guys was the night of Terrence Ross’s 51-point explosion. Counting on the stars to align such that TRoss can do it again is obviously silly, so coach Dwane Casey will have to find other ways to pile up the points against a defensively-challenged bunch of Clippers.

Feb 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6)dunks in the second half of the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Clippers won 102-87. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LAC has managed to score 115 & 112 points against their last two opponents, yet lose both games, so they will be in a surly mood. We won’t see any of the pre-game lovey-dovey stuff between players as we did prior to tip-off in Sacramento. Did that behavior, which so rankled Casey, affect the Raps’ play negatively? It certainly didn’t help – will the Raps have a chip on their shoulder tonight? They will need it to prevail against a team, led by Blake (Thunderdunk) Griffin, which seems to be able to score at will.

J.J. Redick, who hurt the Raps in Toronto in Q4, may not play due to a hip injury. Jamal Crawford, a consistent Raptor killer, gets the start in his place. Darren Collison has stepped into the giant vacuum left by the injury to Chris Paul, and performed well at point.

The Raps will need to dig deep if they are going to end this road trip on an upbeat. A win is possible if Toronto can:

  • contain Griffin. This is a strong man who averages close to 24 points per game, so few teams have figured it out. Perhaps the only chance to slow him down, apart from trying to deny the pass inside, is to stand him up and hope he’ll settle for jump shots. Once he’s forced his way into the paint, it’s usually a bucket. Chuck Hayes will play a lot against him, particularly if/when Jonas Valanciunas gets in foul difficulty.
  • harass Jamal Crawford. Here’s another tough assignment, presumably for TRoss. Stay on your feet, Terrence, and don’t bother with the block attempts. Just go straight up when he does, and hope he misses.
  • count on DeMar DeRozan rediscovering his mid-range jumper. There’s little to be said here; either he’s on or he’s not. DD always finds space, but lately he’s been missing his signature baskets.

These two teams lead their Divisions, LAC the Pacific and Toronto the Atlantic, so which ocean will prevail? I think we’ll send the Clippers fans out into the seemingly endless expressways of SoCal disappointed, as the Raps will win 110-106.

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