What does a team have to do to finish these Raptors off?
Snatching comeback after comeback from the jaws of impending defeat, the Raptors finally ran out of time and succumbed to the Clippers, 123-115. The Clippers put together separate runs of 14-4, 10-0, and 9-0, but Toronto’s scoring ability kept this game interesting into the final seconds.
Well, interesting might be too strong a word to describe a disheveled first half in which the Raptors looked like a team that just played the Kings last night and the Clippers sorta looked like the Kings. The two squads combined for 15 first-half turnovers, highlighted by an uncharacteristic three miscues by Chris Paul, as players on both sides flung the ball about with reckless abandon.
Despite the sloppiness, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, and some end-of-quarter magic boosted the Clippers to a nine-point halftime lead. The Raptors, surely still sick from the end-of-game machinations of last night’s crusher in Sacramento, watched Crawford drain a heavily-contested three to end the first quarter, and gifted JJ Redick three free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Crawford and Jonas Valanciunas led all scorers at the half with 12 apiece, Redick added 11, and Chris Paul kept pace with DeMar DeRozan with 10 on his way to a tidy 26 with 12 assists.
Blake Griffin, who must have some remaining bad memories of Toronto, left the Raptors with some unsightly dreams of their own. The Clippers’ star forward shrugged off an ice cold start to score his team’s first 10 points of the third quarter, and continued to dismantle the Raptors with an array of accurate outside shots, incisive passes, and skillful drives. Griffin finished with 26/7/7 on 10-of-17 shooting, and resumed his dark horse MVP campaign with an aggressive but focused second half of basketball.
The Clippers’ lead swelled to 17 midway through the third quarter, but the Raptors relentlessly chipped away through the end of the third and into the fourth. Kyle Lowry blasted his way to the rim, earning eight of his nine free-throw attempts after halftime to help himself to a game-high 27 points. DeRozan shimmied his way around defenders, canning 15 of his 25 points in the second half.
DeRozan, who lost his mantle as the league’s leading scorer after last night’s 12-point squib, used his newly minted amalgam of athleticism and veteran savvy to create space in the face and arms of some smothering Mbah a Moute defense. DeRozan’s bag of offensive tricks now rivals Mary Poppins’.
Toronto also shot the Drake out of the ball, converting 42% of their deep attempts, though it’s an interesting reflection of their offense that 18 of their 19 three-point tries were put up by just three players. Patrick Patterson’s seemed the most timely and the most deflating, especially in light of his aesthetically unsatisfying flat shot, but the Raptors’ big man nailed half of his six threes on his way to 14 points in relief of foul-plagued rookie Pascal Siakam.
It was also Patterson who drained a three to answer a trey by JJ Redick to close the Clippers’ lead from Lawler’s Law-93 to Lawler’s Law-96. And the Raptors kept at it. With roughly two minutes remaining, Chris Paul converted three-point plays on consecutive possessions, one from the arc, the other the old-fashioned way, only for the Raptors to cut the 12-point lead to four on a Kyle Lowry 25-footer with 22 seconds remaining.
It took four JJ Redick free throws in the final 20 seconds to finish these Raptors, who, for all intents and scheduling purposes, should have been finished an hour earlier.
In winning their 13th game, the Clippers snapped a four-game losing streak against Toronto and stayed one half-game in front of the suddenly surging Warriors for ownership of the best record in the NBA.
- Offense ruled: both teams shot better than 50/40/80. This game featured 18 made threes and 74 free throw attempts.
- All five Clipper starters scored in double figures. Redick made nine of nine free throws to get to 20 points, DeAndre Jordan bullied the Raptors inside for 17/15, and Mbah a Moute got into the fun with two three-pointers and 10 points.
- The Raptors resurrected the Hack-a-DJ while trying to eat into the big third-quarter deficit. DeAndre made five of his six offered free throws.
- In an odd fourth-quarter play, the Clippers were assessed a technical foul when they were caught with six men on the floor. It looked like Austin Rivers was responsible for the mixup.
- Speaking of Austin, Rivers appeared to jam his pinky late in the third quarter, and there’s some wince-inducing footage of him trying to pop it back out. He stayed in the game, but the injury bears watching.
- According to the Prime Ticket broadcast, this was the first-ever game in which two players of Cameroonian descent both appeared: Luc Mbah a Moute and Pascal Siakam. Mbah a Moute and Siakam are two of only four Cameroonian players in NBA history, with Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Joel Embiid counting as the others.