Raptors (8-6) at Clippers (6-6): Preview & 3 keys to victory


The Toronto Raptors finish their 5-game road trip in relative comfort, with a second straight game in Los Angeles. This afternoon they meet a Clippers team which was expected to battle Golden State for top spot in the Pacific Division, but instead is scuffling while the Warriors are soaring.

The reasons for the Clippers’ disappointing record to date are not easy to determine. On paper they possess superb starting talent, including 7-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul, highlight-reel staple Blake Griffin at power forward, and centre DeAndre Jordan, who sits second in rebounding with 12.8 PG. Coach Doc Rivers is a plus, as is a bench which includes Paul Pierce and Jamal Crawford. They aren’t having difficulty scoring, ranking as the NBA’s fourth highest at 104.9 Points Per Game [PPG].

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The picture isn’t so shiny on the other side of the ball. The Clippers are minus_.8 PG, leaving them fourth (again? weird) in points allowed PG. Toronto gives up 97.6 PPG, better than all but seven teams. LAC allows 47.3 rebounds PG, which strongly suggests Jordan is getting little or no help on the boards. With flaky Lance Stephenson and long-range specialist J.J. Redick rounding out the starting five, I’m not surprised.

Feb 6, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Clippers 123-107. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors’ rebounding advantage may be blunted with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined indefinitely with a broken finger. Bismack Biyombo is listed as the starting centre, and reports indicate Lucas Nogueira is en route to California. Whether these two can fend off Jordan remains to be seen.

The Raptors can end their disappointing western adventure on a high note if they…:

  1. …stay out of foul trouble. The Clips rank second in fouls drawn, with 24.7 PG. Astonishingly, the Raptors and Clips are tied at the top of the table for most free throw trips, at 28.7. We connect at almost 80%, while they are under 70%. In what I expect to be a close game, hitting our attempts while minimizing theirs will be important.
  2. …hang onto the ball! Kyle Lowry leads the NBA with 37 steals, and the Raps sit sixth as a result. The Clippers are near the bottom, so our guys should be able to win the turnover battle, but only if we don’t help them with travels and charges.
  3. …get everyone on the scoresheet. The Lakers game was a paradigm for how the Raptors can overachieve this season. Seven players made at least one 3-ball, and all ten players who hit the floor had a point (or many more!) You can win a lot of games that way.

The Raptors have to be happy with how they responded against the Lakers after JV went down. Can they do it again this afternoon? I think so: Raptors 104 – Clippers 101.

[all stats courtesy of http://stats.nba.com/?ls=iref:nba:gnav]

Next: What to do about JV's absence

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.