Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the floor, and even without their second All-Star, the Toronto Raptors soundly defeated the LA Clippers for the second time this season, 121-103.
Doc Rivers said pregame that the Raptors might be the deepest team in the league, which neutralized much of the advantage the Clippers might have had entering the game. LA’s depth, already compromised by the injury to Danilo Gallinari and stretched by the 25-point comeback win yesterday in Detroit, couldn’t keep up with Toronto. The Raptors had five players with at least 14 points.
Leonard led his team with 18 points, but he only had to play 26 minutes as the Clippers fell behind by double digits in the third quarter and couldn’t make enough of a dent to force the starters back into the game. The All-Star starter had little difficulty getting the basket against Avery Bradley, who gives up at least five inches in height to Leonard.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the best player for LA in his first professional game in his hometown of Toronto. He received a nice ovation during the announcement of the starting lineups and continued his aggressive streak with 19 points to lead all scorers on 9-of-15 shooting. He was also strong defensively on Fred VanVleet, who was starting in place of the injured Kyle Lowry.
The Clippers came into the game on a rest deficit, one that Doc Rivers was not particularly thrilled about. It showed almost immediately. Tobias Harris started the game 1-of-7 from the field, still looking uncomfortable with his right shoulder injury. Even with Montrezl Harrell in place of Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup, the Clippers didn’t have enough pace or scoring to keep up with the Raptors at the start of the game, trailing 23-11 in the first quarter.
The game turned when Boban Marjanovic made his entrance. This was a perfect opportunity to play Boban against Greg Monroe, a matchup that really plays to his strengths because of Monroe’s inability to pick-and-pop. Monroe’s size was completely neutralized, as Boban got two offensive rebounds and provided a strong deterrent in the paint, leading to a 12-0 run that tied the score at the end of the first quarter.
Credit to the Raptors, who made necessary adjustments to start the second. Their second unit, which has already been struggling and was down a man with Fred VanVleet starting in place of the injured Kyle Lowry, played with increased tempo to try to run Boban off the floor. They also ran more deliberate actions for C.J. Miles, knowing that the LA defense would be compromised trying to defend the 3-point line. That allowed Toronto open up another double-digit lead, one they did not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
A major issue for the Clippers was their inability to generate any offense outside of the paint. They finished 2-of-12 on 3-pointers. Twelve is simply not an acceptable number of 3-point attempts, particularly against a team with the talent level fo the Toronto.
Another concern was how hampered Harris continues to look. It’s understandable for LA to rely so heavily on its leading scorer, particularly with Gallinari out, but Harris needs to get his shoulder right. He did not seem to trust his jumper and drove awkwardly to the basket on a number of occasions.
Nevertheless, heading into this trip, the Clippers probably would have been happy with a split of the first two games, and that’s exactly what they achieved.