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Clippers Try to Move Above .500 Against Raptors at Home

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The Clippers have not gotten off to a great start in 2015. They have dealt with injuries, new players, and poor shooting all while playing quite a tough schedule. Things should begin to lighten up soon, but first the Clips must defeat a tough Raptors team at home.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
2015/2016 NBA Season
@
8-6

6-6
November 22, 2015 | 12:30 PM (PDT)
Staples Center (Los Angeles, California)
Prime Ticket, TSN2, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016 Regular Season)
4-3 East 1-0
4-3 West 5-6
2-1 Division 3-3
3-1 Home 5-2
5-5 Road 1-4
4-5 .500 + 4-4
4-1 - .500 2-2
0-0 OT 0-0
4-6 L10 4-6
Projected Starters
Kyle Lowry PG Chris Paul
DeMar DeRozan SG JJ Redick
DeMarre Carroll SF Paul Pierce
Luis Scola PF Blake Griffin
Bismack Biyombo C DeAndre Jordan
Advanced Stats (2015-2016 Regular Season)
97.7 (24th of 30) Pace 100.3 (8th of 30)
103.7 (7th of 30) ORtg 105.1 (5th of 30)
100.2 (15th of 30) DRtg 104.9 (23rd of 30)
Injuries/Other
Jonas Valanciunas (Out- broken hand)
Pablo Prigioni (Questionable- illness)
Raptors won 2014-15 season series against Clippers; 2-0
Date
Venue
Final
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
12/27/2014
Los Angeles
Raptors 110, Clippers 98
Recap
Box Score
02/06/2015
Toronto
Raptors 123, Clippers 107
Recap
Box Score

The State of the Clippers- Not great, Bob. Injuries to Chris Paul and JJ Redick have kept the Clippers from clicking so far, though now that they are healthy perhaps the Clips can get on a roll. Blake Griffin is still doing great, but he has been practically working alone. Yes, players like Austin Rivers and Wes Johnson have played well in limited minutes, but they (usually) aren't the kind of players who will really win you games. Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce look every bit of their upper 30s age, struggling to get to the basket or play even semi-effective defense. Doc Rivers has continued to play them, though the better player of the younger guys might force Doc's hand sooner rather than later.

The Toronto Drizzy Drakes- The Raptors have played pretty well to start the season, racking up several decent road wins (at Boston, OKC, and Dallas) and losing a couple tight games to tough squads like the Warriors and Jazz. Unfortunately, starting center Jonas Valanciunas broke his hand last night against the Lakers and is likely out for a while. This will mean a lot more playing time for one dimensional players like Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo, which is bad for the Raptors. The good news is that a now skinny Kyle Lowry is tearing up the NBA, and Toronto's new bench players have played pretty well so far.

The Metrics- Both teams are strong offensively and mediocre or worse on the other end. The Clippers have missed Chris Paul, usually one of the best defenders at the point guard position, especially since a lot of his minutes have been filled by the king of the matador defense; Jamal Crawford. The Clippers must improve on defense, especially since they nominally have quite a few average to plus defenders, including preseason favorite for Defensive Player of the Year DeAndre Jordan. The Raptors are towards the bottom of the league in terms of pace, a curious choice for a team brimming with athletes, but might speed up now that Valanciunas is gone.

Replacing Valanciunas- The Clippers know all about trying to plug holes in the starting lineup and how difficult it can be. The Raptors will now face the same challenge with their starting center out. Luis Scola has been starting at PF for the Raptors as well as playing some small ball five, but he is already at 25 minutes a game or so and probably can't handle much more. The most logical replacement is Bismack Biyombo, but he is a polar opposite from Jonas in terms of style of play. Unlike Valanciunas, who likes to post on the block and make plays, Biyombo only gets the ball on offense for a wide open dunk, and even then is liable to bobble the pass. However, he is a hugely athletic and terrifying rim protector who averaged 4 blocks per 36 minutes last year, and can swing games on that end. Expect his minutes to jump dramatically, perhaps with a little increase for Patrick Patterson- the stretch four out of Kentucky-as well.

Quick Ain't Fair- Kyle Lowry has notably been pudgy for much of his NBA career, and was a very effective player despite the extra baggage. Reports came out of training camp that he had lost a lot of weight, but dozens of players and coaches say that every year without anything really coming of it. Well, not this time. Lowry is getting to the line over 6 times a game, by far a career high, and is lightning quick darting to the basket. At the same time, he is knocking down 41.5% of his threes, also a career high, and is throwing in over 2.5 steals to top it off. In other words, Chris Paul is going to have his hands full.

Blake Griffin's Knee- Blake briefly left the game against the Trailblazers on Friday night with a non-contact knee injury. He returned shortly, and despite not quite looking like his usual self still acquitted himself well. Since nothing else has come out about the injury, I think it is safe to assume that he is good to go for this one.

JJ Returns- After missing a few games with back pain, JJ Redick came back for the Trailblazers game. While he looked rusty, making only 3-12 shots and 1-5 from deep, his impact on the offensive end is undeniable. As long as he is out on the court, the spacing for Chris and Blake to operate is vastly increased. Hopefully he is able to get going tonight against the sometimes lax off ball defense of DeMar DeRozan.

Raptors New Additions Playing Well- The Drakes revamped their roster over the offseason, letting go of bench scorers Greivis Vazquez and Lou Williams as well as long time starter Amir Johnson. DeMarre Carroll hasn't shot the ball well, but his defense and ability to do all the little things has been huge for a Raptors team that has been rather selfish for several years. Luis Scola is a terrible defensive player but has been effective on the offensive end, especially with his new three point shot. Cory Joseph and Biyombo have brought energy and defense to the bench. Sadly, former number one overall pick Anthony Bennett has failed to crack the rotation, and his NBA career looks to be imminently over.

Doc Rivers and His Veterans- While Doc is in no danger of losing his job (which is a good thing), for the first time there have been stirrings of national media dissent with his coaching. His inability to recognize that Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce can't play together on the defensive end has led to some truly brutal stretches, and Pierce in particular has been just awful to start the season. There is plenty of time for the veterans to get their act together, but if they don't start to improve soon, the transfer of minutes to Austin, Wes, and Lance Stephenson should be sped up.