Like Muldoon before he got killed in Jurassic Park, all you can say to the Raptors is "clever girl." They lull you into a false sense of security, get you comfortable, then strike with calculated violence when the time is right. For the better part of three quarters, the Raptors were just hanging around with the Clippers, playing a nice, friendly game of hoop ball until BAM! The Clippers found their entrails strewn out upon the ground for all the world to see. But how did we even get to that point? What turned the Raptors from such pettable creatures in the first half into violent death machines in the second half? Simple. They smelled blood and swarmed.
|Los Angeles Clippers||26||23||29||20||98|
The game got off to a rather pedestrian start after Toronto missed their opening shot, stole the ball, and had Kyle Lowry sink a three to give them the early lead. The Clippers would answer back with a three ball of their own by the ever present and reliable J.J. Redick. From there, each team would get a tad cold. They each started 3-for-12 from the field and eventually were tied at 12-12 before the Raptors went on a 7-0 run. The Clippers answered that run with a 14-3 run of their own, which was highlighted and ended by Blake Griffin getting a rebound and getting fouled when attempting a quarter-ending three-pointer. In that first quarter, Blake Griffin was 4-for-4 from 16+ feet and had 10-4-3 in the box score while the Clippers saw themselves up, 26-22.
In the second quarter, Doc Rivers did what he's been doing lately and started Blake Griffin with the bench guys in order to give them some kind of big man on the floor other than the Round Mound of Thrill Town (Glen Davis). After a few seconds, though, Doc took Blake out and put DeAndre Jordan in there. And it quickly paid off when Jordan delivered a laser pass to Reggie Bullock for a layup. Jordan's fun times would quickly end when he actually tipped in a basket for the Raptors on the other end, though. Clippers eventually got out to a 43-35 lead before the Raptors finished the half on a 14-6 run that sort of took place due to Clippers turnovers. Toronto converted 11 first half turnovers by the Clippers into 17 points while Los Angeles only got 5 points out of the 7 Raptors turnovers. The two teams saw themselves tied at 49 apiece and the game hung in the balance.
Much like in the second quarter, the Clippers struck first in the third quarter thanks to Matt Barnes hitting a three. Toronto would answer with an 8-2 run and take a 56-54 lead with 10:15 to go. The Clippers would never regain the lead after this. The game got tied at 56, 62, and 78 along the way but the Clippers could just never break through with a stop and score like they needed to. And the quarter was capped off when Jonas Valanciunas put in a bunny to give the Raptors an 80-78 lead after 36 minutes. There were runs in the quarter by each team, though. Raptors had the aforementioned 8-2 run but they also had a 7-0 run while the Clippers had a 7-0 run of their own. The game was close but the Clippers would draw no closer.
The fourth quarter was akin to that scene in Jurassic Park when the Tyrannosaurus Rex ate Donald Gennaro on the toilet in the rain. Toronto started the quarter on a 13-2 run that was basically engineered by Greivis Vasquez scoring 8 straight points for the Raptors off of two threes and a pull-up jumper. The Clippers never got within 10 points again. Ultimately, Los Angeles fizzled out while Toronto kept pouring it on and the Raptors came away with the well-earned 110-98 victory. Unfortunately for the Clippers, Dr. Alan Grant's advice of "Don't move! He can't see us if we don't move" didn't work in this game.
1.) Kyle Lowry devoured Chris Paul today. It wasn't even close. Lowry finished with 25 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals on 9-for-17 shooting (3-for-7 from three) while Paul only mustered 10 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal on 3-for-12 shooting (1-for-3 from three). Lowry's barrage in the 3rd quarter was a sign of what was coming. After Paul hit a jumper to pull the Clippers within a single point, Lowry scored 7 straight to assert his dominance. Paul didn't score after that jumper. In the game preview, I stated that whoever won this battle would likely see his team win the game. That was definitely the case today.
2.) Blake Griffin might have finished 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists but he didn't have a single rebound in the second half and only had one assist in the final 24 minutes. His jumper was falling, though, but it had to or else he would have been nonexistent since he went just 4-for-13 inside 16 feet today. He was 5-for-7 from beyond 16 feet. There was good and bad with him. His first half was good but his second half seemed pedestrian. Not all his fault since this happens sometimes. Just sucks to see.
3.) DeAndre Jordan pulled down 20 rebounds for the third time this season. But he didn't do much else. Toronto did a good job of pulling Jonas Valanciunas away from the hoop and forcing Jordan to step out onto other shooters, such as Patrick Patterson, and it really allowed Toronto to get some offensive rebounds in this game. Like Griffin, games like this happen. Wasn't all his fault since the opposition did a good job of taking him out of the game. He still had a solid, albeit not great, game.
4.) Speaking of Jonas Valanciunas, he was really good today. This was the other key battle that the Clippers needed to win but ended up losing. Valanciunas's ability to have a face-up game combined with a solid post game is really underrated. Foul trouble can be an issue for him but he stayed out of it today and was a huge reason as to why Toronto found themselves winning this game. He reminds me a little bit of Marc Gasol in terms of both body and game. While he's obviously nowhere near Gasol's level as a defender, the offense is pretty close. Toronto has a good one in him.
5.) J.J. Redick was probably the biggest bright spot for the Clippers today. He shot 9-for-16, including 5-for-9 from three, and finished with a team-high 23 points. Without his crucial shots, this game would have probably been a blowout long before it turned into one. Since November 19th, Redick is averaging 16.0 points on 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent shooting from three. Whatever early season slump people were worried about before is long gone and he's been probably the Clippers most consistent scorer over that period of time.
6.) Jamal Crawford started off hot, making his four of his first five shots, but ultimately finished 6-for-14 which means he shot just 2-for-9 the rest of the way. A few of his early makes were on catch-and-shoot shots. Those are the kind of shots that he excels at. But, as we all know, Jamal will always be Jamal so you have to take the bad with the good. He was really good last game after being really bad the game before that. Today he was pretty meh and his defense wasn't as good as it had been the game before. Perhaps he felt like he needed to best Lou Williams, who turned it on late in this game. Either way, we got average Jamal today.
7.) Give major credit to the Toronto Raptors. They hung around in the first half when things weren't going their way. They shot just 40.5 percent and 4-for-15 from three in the first half yet found themselves tied with the Clippers after Los Angeles shot 44.4 percent and 6-for-10 from three. You just knew they'd turn it around. And they did. They got great shots in the second half and finished with a 54.5 percent shooting mark in the final 24 minutes. They also went 9-for-19 from three. A lot of the shots they were missing in the first half, they made in the second half. They adapted and persevered.
8.) I'm not so sure the bench was much of a problem today as Doc Rivers was. He even admitted in his post-game press conference that he might have made rotational changes too late in the game. It's true. His other point was also true, though. The bench bigs, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, weren't the reason the bench got taken to task to start the fourth quarter. The perimeter defense was the main culprit. But part of that falls on Doc by doing a hockey substitution and failing to see things as they're happening. He took timeouts too late and made changes too late. Not saying that could have ultimately flipped the outcome of this game but his awareness seemed lacking today. Maybe he was tired, as well.
9.) The referees were odd today. Not "bad" odd but odd. There were quite a few foul calls on the perimeter but not a lot of foul calls on contact inside. The referees seemed to let them play more than usual and Blake Griffin looked the most annoyed by it. He thought he got fouled more than the refs did and ended up getting a technical assessed for it. Maybe the referees had somewhere else to be. In a way, I kinda like that they let the two teams play physical inside. It's nice sometimes.
10.) This isn't a step back for the Clippers. They just came off an emotional win over a rival on Christmas Day. They just looked tired today and it showed later in the game which is when tired legs come back to bite you. This schedule has been draining and an afternoon game during the middle of this daunting stretch certainly didn't help matters. Perhaps the team will get some extra rest and come out better in the next game.
Look, you can't win them all. And you can't always win them all against upper echelon teams like the Toronto Raptors. That squad from up north is no joke. Even without DeMar DeRozan. Losing to them isn't an embarrassment or a disappointment or anything. They're a damn good team and a team that has a chip on their shoulder. They also hadn't played since Monday night in Chicago. So they were well-rested while the Clippers had played twice during that stretch the Raptors were off. These games happen. You know people are going to flip out over this loss but you shouldn't. No reason to.
Up next for the Clippers are the Utah Jazz on Monday night. The Clippers get a little extra rest because of the day game today but Utah is a scrappy team that plays hard for 48 minutes. Utah hasn't beat the Clippers this year so they could come in with some extra motivation. It's on the Clippers to use this home heavy schedule to make up some ground. It should start Monday night. But they can't play like they did in the second half. If they play like the team we all know they're capable of playing as, they should win going away. Either way, we're 31 games into the season and the Clippers are on pace for a 53-win campaign. In the Western Conference this year, that's good. Just gotta get into the dance before you find a partner.
Clippers shot only 14-for-36 (38.9 percent) inside 16 feet. They were 23-for-45 (51.1 percent) from 16+ feet.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 27, 2014
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