The Clippers had one of their worst starts to a game that they’ve had all season. On offense, they didn’t move the ball, instead settling for contested jumpers and weak drives. On defense, they weren’t bothering to cover any of the Raptors’ players whatsoever, letting them take wide open threes while also allowing them to parade to the rim at will. The Raptors led 27-9 halfway through the first, and Doc, furious, subbed in several members of his bench, restoring order. Sindarius, Lou, and Montrezl brought energy, as they have all season, and the Clippers worked the large deficit into something manageable. Montrezl in particular was electric, scoring repeatedly around the basket and dominating his Raptors’ counterparts. Once the starters came back in, both teams began to play poorly, with little in the way of defense and sloppy execution on offense. Nevertheless, at halftime, the Raptors’ lead was a relatively slim seven points.
The start of the third quarter saw some of the ugliest offensive basketball I’ve seen this season, with both teams bricking most of their shots. As the quarter went along, the Raptors continued to sink, missing open shots and making horrible turnovers due to the Clippers’ pressure. The Clippers’ offense, however, while not great, was at least able to get some scores, and they soon surged ahead of the Raptors. The first eight minutes of the quarter amounted to a 19-4 run for the Clippers, their defense absolutely stifling the Raptors’ offense. Dwane Casey inserted his bench, and the game flipped yet again, as Pascal Siakam and CJ Miles combined to hit several threes and unraveled the Clippers’ defense. The result was a tie game going into the final period, with neither team playing particularly well.
The Clippers started the 4th on a shocking 16-0 run, with Boban Marjanovic and Montrezl teaming up to terrify the Raptors around the rim on defense, and barreling through them on the other end. Lou Williams found them time and again rolling to the rim, and the Raptors appeared to have no answers for the Clippers’ reserve squad. The Raptors’ starters returned and were able to stem the flood, forcing Doc to answer with his starters as well. The Clippers’ defense slowly started to slip, and the Raptors began creating open looks once more. The Clippers’ lead shrunk to five, and it seemed like the Raptors had all the momentum. The final minutes of the game were decided, however, by Lou Williams. As he has done so many times this season, Sweet Lou put the Clippers on his back, scoring 12 points in a row on ridiculous floaters, step-backs, and off-balance fadeaways. The Clippers’ defense got just enough stops to support him, and the Clippers pulled out the win, 117-106.
- Sweet Lou Forever: It’s hard to imagine where the Clippers would be without Lou Williams this season. Dead in a ditch is the most likely answer. While Lou started off the game 1-8 from the floor, and was just 3-13 going into the 4th quarter, he provided offense and penetration for the Clippers all game-- he was at his playmaking best. His pick and roll passing with Montrezl Harrell and Boban Marjanovic has been mentioned seemingly hundreds of times this season, but it’s so remarkably unstoppable that it continues to deserve acclaim. The final quarter, of course, was Lou time, as he poured in 18 points in the period, scoring in all manners and fashions over outstretched Raptors’ arms. Whenever the Clippers have needed someone to pull them through, they have turned to Lou Williams, and he has delivered far more often than not. He has slumped in the second half of the season, there’s no question about that. His performance this year is still remarkable, one of the best seasons by a reserve in NBA history. Maybe even the greatest ever. In the end, he probably wasn’t quite good enough to make the All-Star team, and he will miss the All-NBA teams due to the insane guard crop in the modern NBA. But the Sixth Man of the Year Award just doesn’t feel like it’s enough of a recognition for what Lou has been able to do this season.
- Monstrous Montrezl: While Lou carried them late, and Tobias Harris was the steadying force early, Montrezl Harrell was effective throughout the game. He bullied the Raptors’ big men around the basket, moving over and through them whenever he got the ball in the post. On defense, while he did allow a few offensive rebounds due to his height disadvantage, he was active, and rotated well to contest shots around the rim. He scored 19 points on 9-12 shooting from the field in just 19 minutes, and those numbers don’t even convey how dominant he was. Really, the only person who has been able to slow Montrezl down this season is himself—sometimes the shots don’t fall for him, but it’s usually not because of anything the defense is doing or not doing. He’s just a superb basketball player.
- This Team, Man: Whenever this Clippers’ team is counted out, they rise to the occasion in an unbelievable fashion. Tonight was no exception. Playing in Toronto, against a Raptors team that was 30-6 at home, the Clippers came in as heavy underdogs. Add to that their horrid start, and it wouldn’t have been out of the question for neutral observers to write them off just minutes into the game. But this Clippers’ team is never out of any game. They fought, and they clawed, and they tightened up on defense, and they moved the ball on offense, and they won a game they had no business winning. Such has been the case all season for this squad, a team that refuses to die or quit no matter the odds. They are a living reminder that there is fun to be had supporting an NBA team that isn’t a championship contender or a young up-and-comer. Playoffs or no, this has been a fun, exciting season, and one of the most memorable years in Clippers’ history.
- Help Is on The Way: The Clippers have just nine games remaining on their schedule to make the postseason, but should get a huge boost Tuesday, when Tyrone Wallace, CJ Williams, and Danilo Gallinari (possibly) rejoin the team in Los Angeles. Williams might not get many minutes right now, but Gallinari should slot back into the starting lineup immediately at power forward, and Wallace will assuredly get minutes at all the guard and wing positions. Relatively fresh bodies will be a massive boon to the weary Clippers, especially since all three players are at least average defenders. It might be too late for the Clippers, but as laid out above, it just doesn’t pay to rule this team off.