Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: NBATV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
How to Listen: AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Patterson, Ivica Zubac
Raptors: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell
Injuries & Absences
Clippers: Paul George – OUT (left shoulder); Amir Coffey and Johnathan Motley – OUT (G League – Two-Way); Mfiondu Kabengele and Derrick Walton Jr. – OUT (G League – On Assignment)
Raptors: Serge Ibaka – OUT (sprained right ankle); Kyle Lowry – OUT (fracture of the distal phalanx of his left thumb)
The Big Picture
Monday night’s match-up marks the highly-anticipated reunion of Kawhi Leonard with his former team, the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. Don’t expect fireworks or drama, however. By all accounts, the split between the Finals MVP and the Raptors was amicable, with mutual respect on both sides.
The Clippers have not suited up since last Thursday’s 107-101 win against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Raptors have played two games in that same stretch, beating the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday 122-104, and upsetting the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday 113-104.
The Raptors have now won six of their last seven games and are 7-2 overall for the season. Despite this strong start and Sunday’s hard fought victory over the Lakers, the recent loss of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to injury puts Toronto at a clear disadvantage entering Monday’s game.
Prior to getting hurt Lowry was averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, and connecting on 42.6 percent of his shots from distance. Ibaka was averaging 14.8 points and 1.3 blocks off the bench. Although Toronto got excellent performances from a previously struggling Fred VanVleet (23 points, 10 assists) and their bench to cover these losses against the Lakers, they may not have the depth and offensive firepower to cover those losses consistently ,particularly against teams with elite defensive abilities like the Clippers.
Keys to the Game
Perimeter Defense. The Raptors are an excellent 3-point shooting team. Going into Sunday’s contest they were second in the league in three point shooting percentage (40.4 percent). Although Toronto will not have the benefit of Lowry’s sharp shooting on Monday, they do have other guys on their roster who can connect from long range, most notably VanVleet.
The Clippers, who are a solid defensive squad overall, have not always been consistent with their perimeter defense. The team ranks 18th out of 30 with regard to opponent three point percentage (36.1 percent). Defense along the arc will be important in this match-up. Without Lowry on the floor expect to see Patrick Beverley assigned to VanFleet, who broke out of a shooting slump with his 23 point performance against the Lakers Sunday night, going 8 of 18 from the field and 4 of 9 from three.
Containing Spicy P. Pascal Siakam has emerged as the face of the Raptors’ franchise and a superstar in this league. He is averaging a team-high 27.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Luckily, the Clippers have many bodies to throw at him. Let’s hope one of them sticks.
Finding Long-Ball Offense. Three-point shooting has been an early concern for the Clippers. In October the team shot 36.7 percent from long, but that percentage dropped to 27.9 in November. If the Clippers’ shooting woes continue, such that they are unable to realize the gains of a 3-heavy strategy and go on explosive runs, they may not fare well. especially if they fall behind by any significant amount. To date, the current roster has not shown the comeback ability of last year’s team. The difficulty they are having sinking threes is a main reason.
Toronto will not be a pushover, but they are on the tail end of a back-to-back, without two of their stars, in the middle of a five game road trip. Advantage, Clippers.