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After the refs screwed the pooch at the end of a Raptors game for the umpteenth time this season, our hard-luck heroes return to the friendly confines of the ACC with hopes of respite. Instead, staring them in the face: a team with one of the NBA’s best records, two All-Stars, and the coolest team nickname since the “Jail Blazers” – that’s right, it’s Lob City, the Los Angeles Clippers.

A quick personnel update before we get down to brass tax – the Raps are going to be shorthanded once again tonight, though respite is on the horizon. Rudy Gay will arrive in Toronto this afternoon and is expected to suit up for Sunday’s game, though he won’t play tonight (he still has to pass a physical). As well, Andrea Bargnani participated in shootaround Wednesday and won’t be in tonight, but is expected back by the weekend. No word on Hamed Haddadi, because, well…

So, with all that being said, what we’re left with tonight is largely the same line-up that we saw in Wednesday night’s robbery against the Hawks, with the Raps having 9 usable NBA players and whatever Mikael Pietrus is. This might get ugly – but that’s why they play the games, right?

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.9 (12th), Clippers 110.6 (4th)
D-Rating: Toronto 108.9 (26th), Clippers 102.1 (5th)
Pace: Toronto 92.6 (24th), Clippers 94.2 (15th)
Strength: Toronto ball control (2nd – though without Jose, who knows?), Clippers balance (they’re in the top 10 of most statistical categories, and the top 5 of a bunch of them)
Weakness: Toronto Freebies (30th in Opp FTA/FGA), Clippers free throw shooting (26th in FT%)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry and John Lucas v. Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe
BIG Advantage: 
Clippers
Yikes. Lowry is going to be at his absolute best tonight to even come close to matching up with the 2 headed monster that is Paul and Bledsoe. Expect the Raptors to go to a zone when Lucas is in the game to try and counter his glaring size disadvantage when he’s matched up against Bledsoe, one of the league’s strongest, quickest point guards. It’ll be interesting to see how Lowry responds in his first game as the unquestioned number 1 in front of the home crowd.

Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Willie Green, Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Grant Hill
Advantage: 
Clippers
Arguably, DeMar is the most talented offensive player on this list (at least, he has the potential to be) – but the depth on the Clippers is unbelievable – Jamal Crawford is one of the leaders in the clubhouse for 6th Man of the Year honors, and all of these players have been starters on very good teams in the past. With luck, this will be the type of wing rotation the Raptors will be able to deploy when all our wheeling and dealing is done, as Rudy Gay will give us similar, enviable depth as well. As it stands, though, the Clippers have a clear advantage tonight.

Bigs: Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy v. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Lamar Kardashian, and Ronny Turiaf
Advantage:
 Clippers
The thought of Gray trying to guard DeAndre Jordan as he flies through the air makes me cringe, though Amir has the physical tools to do a reasonable job slowing down Blake Griffin and Acy matches up well with Odom from a defensive standpoint. Regardless, there’s a clear talent discrepancy here. Haddadi, where art thou??

The Picks
Vegas: OFF (presumably because they don’t know if Gay will suit up – though as you can see by the linked article above, he won’t)
Hollinger: Clippers -9
Garrett: With a shorthanded lineup, and playing arguably the deepest team in the league, I don’t see a lot of hope for tonight. Watch this game for individual performances (I’m especially interested in Lowry and DeRozan) and to see one of the NBA’s best teams, but not if you expect a close game. Clippers by 15. Rudy, get your butt over here.