Just two days after their win in Boston, the Clippers made the trip north of the border to spend New Year’s Eve in Toronto. It might not be the most desirable way to spend the end of the year, and unfortunately, the 116-108 loss did not help make it any better.
The Raptors have a special bond with the Clippers, highlighted in the pre-game video tribute to Serge Ibaka, who has made a remarkable impact on Canada’s most populous city. Despite the warm welcome, the starters entered the game cold and quickly fell into a double-digit deficit. It seemed as if the home team refused to miss, but the Clippers were able to even it up, powered by the two-way play of Amir Coffey. He scored eight straight points without a miss late in the quarter, and played solid defense both inside and outside of the paint to make important stops.
As Coffey cooled off in the second quarter, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam began to heat up. They both scored over 10 points each in the first half, as VanVleet’s shot creation on the perimeter helped to open up paint and mismatch opportunities for Siakam. The quarter was not pretty for either team, but the Clippers ended the half on a 13-2 run and with a six point lead, with a couple threes from Reggie Jackson as well.
The third quarter was not filled with many surprises, and the Clippers were generally able to hold onto their lead despite not having a clear-cut number one option on offense. However, the fourth quarter saw a surge by the Raptors that erased the vulnerable lead, led by OG Anunoby who finished with 26 points. Some timely points from VanVleet secured the lead with less than a minute left, and the Clippers simply ran out of time to make up the deficit.
Despite the tough loss, the Clippers are still in a competitive position when looking at the playoff bracket. However, as the empty Scotiabank arena eerily hinted at, there will be plenty of challenges to navigate in order to stay competitive, especially COVID-19.