The Raptors do want to play the Los Angeles Clippers
In what would be a dream come true for the Toronto Raptors and their fanbase, an NBA Finals versus the Los Angeles Clippers would be great. First, it would be returning to the Finals for a second straight year. Then, it would be competing at the highest level of basketball competition without and against former Raptors Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
It would be the penultimate dream if the Raptors also beat the Clippers further validating that their 2019 win was not a fluke against an injury-plagued Golden State Warriors squad. Considering the Clippers traded for Paul George and signed the one time, one-year Raptors rental in Kawhi Leonard one may wonder why the Raptors would want to play the Clippers in the 2020 playoffs.
It’s simple really. The Clippers’ biggest flaw maybe chemistry. With a record of 44-20, the Clippers are the NBA’s fourth-best team this season. It may bode well that they have amassed that record despite Kawhi Leonard missing 13 games mostly due to load management and Paul George missing 22 games. Also, players like Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley have been together for a few years but the star talent has been acquired this off-season.
The COVID-19 break on one hand may be a blessing that allowed both George and Leonard to rest and heal what ails them. On the other hand, lack of basketball repetition at true game speed could mean a pair of star players who will have to ramp up their play to full once the season resumes. It is not clear if Leonard will need more load management before the playoffs start.
The fear is the injury that caused his rift with the San Antonio Spurs may be chronic and if so can Leonard lead the Clippers exceptionally as he did the Raptors last season without breaking down? Further, the Raptors know Kawhi Leonard intimately. Nick Nurse is sure to have a defensive scheme to slow down Leonard and the Raptors have proven defensive excellence is their identity this season.
In an early-season contest in Los Angeles, the Clippers were without George and the Raptors were without Lowry and Serge Ibaka and the Raptors lost by 10 98-88 holding Leonard to just 2/11 shooting and 12 points. The Clippers did win this series two games to none this season.
If this series materializes, it would pit the league’s number three offense, the Clippers, against the Raptors’number two defense. While Kawhi Leonard played a major role in the Raptors defensive prowess on their way to the 2019 NBA Championship this season has proven it was not all him.
A reminder of just how important defense is to a championship team, in game three of the Eastern Conference Final in 2019, Toronto held Milwaukee to about 37% shooting while shooting just 39% themselves winning that game 118-112 after trailing in the series two games to none.
In an interesting one on one matchup to watch, this series would highlight the current two-time sixth man of the year award winner Lou Williams against the emerging scoring threat that is Norman Powell. William is averaging 18.7 points per game while Powell is at 16.4 points a game and having a career season.
Both of these teams have deep benches, but even with Leonard and George, the Toronto Raptors have the experience, and the chemistry to prevail.