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Clippers 102 - Raptors 98

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When you only see a team twice a year (are the Raptors EVER on ESPN?), the impression you get of that team may have little resemblance to reality.  Maybe they don't match up well against your team.  Or maybe they just have two bad games.  But after watching the Clippers win this game, I have been wholly unimpressed with this Raptors team this season.  Of course, though the team leads the NBA in three point shooting, they were 3 for 15 in the December game and 6 for 21 tonight.  So that could have a little to do with it.  That's another thing - for two weeks the Clippers have seen mediocre shooting teams go off on them from beyond the arc - tonight, the best in the NBA shot 29%.  Over time, a team's defense impacts their opponents' shooting.  But on any given night, sometimes teams are hot, and sometimes teams are cold - Toronto was cold tonight.

So I'm sure they would have looked a little better  had they made 9 of 21 threes tonight (matching their season percentage), but not a lot better really.  It just seems like, other than Chris Bosh, there's no one on this team who's going to break down his defender.  (TJ Ford clearly had a poor game and is probably just not all the way back from his injury.)  And the bottom line is, although I know the East is weak, shouldn't the five seed playing at home be able to beat the Generic Clippers minus Sam Cassell and Tim Thomas?  And down six in the fourth quarter, shouldn't you have a better play than Bargnani shooting a stand still three with Kaman in his grill.  How'd that huddle go?  "Andrea, you're 0 for 5 from three and you just missed one 30 seconds ago - let's do this - take two steps further back and shoot it again.  The law of averages is going to catch up to us."  I mean, sure it went in, but you've got to have a better plan than that.

In a role reversal the Clippers shot out of their minds from the arc - 10 for 14.  That by itself pretty much explains the unexpected result.  But frankly, I didn't think the Clippers played particularly well.  Maggette was out of his mind to be certain - 35 points on 9 for 15, 5 for 5 from three and 12 for 13 from the line.  And Al Thornton was the go to scorer in the fourth quarter.  But those 20 turnovers (16 for the trio of Kaman, Thornton and Maggette) were ugly, and I didn't think anyone else played particularly well.

I know K2's 16 and 12 look pretty good in the box score, but seriously shouldn't this have been one of his 20 and 20 games?  Andrea Bargnani?  Are you kidding?  Her name is Andrea for FSM's sake.  K2 has been significantly less aggressive rebounding since returning from his illness.  Earlier in the season, he just took every single board - but lately it seems like he's letting Maggette take rebounds that he just owned before.  And he must have had 5 passes poked away when he simply didn't go after the ball with both hands to make sure about the catch.  I know Bargnani's got long arms, but catch the damn ball.  And while Cat Mobley finished with 19, for the second consecutive game he was scorching hot from beyond the arc (3 for 4) and bitter cold inside it (2 for 8).  He's only made 2 of his last 18 twos, while making 6 of 9 threes.  Go figure.

I guess I should be more enthusiastic about the win.  Of course, in the chase for the ping pong balls, stealing a game in Toronto is not what you really want to be doing.  And winning by going way off the script (10 for 14 threes!) is not overly satisfying.  It doesn't really seem like a repeatable formula.

I can certainly be unabashedly enthusiastic about the play of Corey Maggette lately.  Are you sitting down?  After tying the franchise record for threes without a miss tonight, he has raised his three point percentage to .415 - around 22nd in the NBA.  He's also creeping up on 48% overall, easily the best shooting of his Clippers career.  Corey has always been an efficient scorer when you factor in his ability to get to the line - if he's shooting a high percentage to begin with, he's pretty scary (as indeed 35 points on 15 shots surely frightened the Raptors).  Now if he can just cut down on those turnovers (6 tonight).

Al Thornton continues his Dr. All Star / Mr. Rookie routine.  This is the third game in the last 12 where he has absolutely taken over in the fourth quarter.  I'm not saying he was good for a rookie in those games.  I'm not saying he was better than average.  I'm saying he was the best scorer on the court.  Now 3 games in 12 may not seem like a lot, but the Clippers won all 3 (out of only 5 wins in that span), so it's nothing to sneeze at.  Of course, he's also had games of 1 for 15, 1 for 6 and 1 for 6 in the same period.  He may be a little streaky.  In this one, with Tim Thomas unable to return after the first quarter after his back tightened up, he also did an admirable job defending against Chris Bosh, and grabbed 9 rebounds (tying his career high).  The fact that the Clippers basically won the Thornton-Bosh matchup down the stretch was huge.  Toronto had their best defender (Moon) on Maggette - so the Clippers went to Al against Bosh.  That's twice now that the rookie has been the difference in the fourth quarter while being guarded by an all star.  Not that Vince Carter or Chris Bosh necessarily are known as great defenders, but still it's got to be fun posterizing a name, right?

I assume that Thomas will be out of the game in Philadelphia tomorrow given that he couldn't return for the end of this one.  But the team will have Cassell back after his suspension.  Is it possible that they'll actually win consecutive games for the first time since early November?