No More Parties in LA – Raptors get out worked by Clippers to snap 6-game win streak

Raptors 101, Clippers 106


That’s the word Jonas Valanciunas continued to repeat during his first half interview after leading all scorers with 17 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting after two quarters of play. He seemed to be the only Raptors capable of hitting a shot early on as the Raptors struggled to find their legs following a win the day before in Sacramento. Thankfully, JV and his relocation carried Toronto long enough to give the Raptors a 53-51 lead entering the third quarter.

Valanciunas was aggressive early and often, making a variety of moves at the rim and continuing to knock down his free throws. He even drained a three to give him three makes on seven attempts on the season.

Unfortunately his energy wasn’t exactly contagious. When Casey (inexplicably?) pulled JV and the rest of the starters (minus DeRozan) late in the first quarter the Raptors bench unit looked uncharacteristically bad. They were -16 in the first half and with the exception of proud new papa C.J. Miles – no one seemed willing or eager to make a shot. Everyone had trouble guarding Montrezl Harrell which isn’t exactly a sentence that felt great to write and their two point lead seemed on the verge of crumbling at any moment.

Enter Serge Ibaka. The piece that was supposed to make the Raptors a contender in the East last season has been more of a model of inconsistency than anything else this season, yet has started to come on as of late. With 19, 21 and 20 points in three straight before Monday’s contest, it was Ibaka who again kept the Raptors afloat in the third quarter. He was dynamite on both ends of the floor and had three finger-waving-worthy-blocks before the final frame including this one.

After a Lowry lay-up with 1:18 left in the third ( his first make of the night) he sank another long two to give Toronto a four point lead entering the fourth.

Casey ran with his bench to start the fourth quarter but every offensive possession seemed to end with a botched attempt at the rim by Norman Powell. After Poeltl and Harrell got into a bit Casey took out his young-big man in favour of Valanciunas…for about five minutes. That same word Valanciunas used to explain why him and the rest of his teammates had success scoring in the first half came back to haunt him: Relocation.

JV was relocated to the bench in a move that even William Lou had to question:

Casey put him back in with the game basically out of reach despite Valanciunas having matched his season-high in rebounds (15) and points (23). The Raps chucked up shots that had no business being taken, with the ultimate insult coming when Ibaka’s excellent night was ruined in about three minutes. Ibaka couldn’t box-out Jordan and his mid-range game was..err..lacking. The rest of the team could barely move up and down the floor and it’s hard to pin the loss on any one person, with the exception of maybe Casey. The decision to take JV out after he started the 4th quarter with two consecutive baskets to help the Raptors go on a 7-0 run was puzzling enough, but then to completely mishandle Jordan on the other end with the game on the line was inexcusable as well. He left his bench players on for far too long (they were outscored 50-17!!!) and he had no answer for the Clippers inside.

Call it a “scheduled loss” if you want – but keep in mind that the Clippers essentially played a team that lacked a single household name with the exception of Jordan. Thankfully their next game comes against the lowly Suns, but if this version of the Raptors shows up don’t get too comfortable.

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