Gameday: Clippers @ Raptors, January 26

The Raptors return to action after four days off.

The Toronto Raptors are back in action after a bit of a break, as they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night before heading out for a six-game road trip.

When these two teams faced off a couple of weeks ago things were a bit different for Toronto, they still had Pascal Siakam…kinda. The now-Pacers forward didn’t suit up due to back spasms.

Immanuel Quickley led the Raptors in scoring in that game with 25 points, and he won’t be playing in this one as he deals with a thigh contusion.

What remains the same for Toronto is that they’ll remain without the services of Jakob Poeltl as he slowly recovers from an ankle sprain. The Austrian was seen ramping up things during recent practices but his timeline to return remains unclear.

Despite three of the motley crew Raptors going for 20+ points on Jan. 11, those being Quickley, RJ Barrett (24), and Dennis Schroder (22), the team ultimately fell short and took a 126-120 loss.

Toronto led 92-89 up until the final moments of the third quarter but allowed Los Angeles to go on a 22-9 run and weren’t able to recover. It was the Clippers star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard that led the way, to no one’s surprise.

Both George and Leonard finished with 29 points as they spearheaded an uber-efficient night for a Clippers squad that shot over 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from deep, and went a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe.

Clippers Scope

(28-14 | 4th in West | Offensive Rating: 120.6/5th | Defensive Rating: 114.6/12th)

The Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. In their last 15 games, they’ve only lost four times, just twice in their last ten, and during that span have been on three separate three-game win streaks (that’s a lot of pizza parties).

Los Angeles will be without the services of Ivica Zubac, who without Poeltl in the lineup last time, snatched 11 rebounds. So there is some respite for Toronto as they don’t have to worry about the big man snatching away possessions.

Ultimately, it’ll come down to Toronto’s ability to defend and if they can contain George and Leonard who are playing at all-star levels right now. Both are averaging over 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, and nearly two steals a game.

And if they’re able to manage that, the Raptors will still have to deal with James Harden who through their last two games has put up 20-point, 10-assist double-doubles.

Raptors Scope

(16-28 | 12th in East | Offensive Rating: 114.3/18th | Defensive Rating: 117.1/19th)

Toronto is on the opposite of the “hotness” spectrum as they’ve lost three in a row, most recently facing defeat at the hands of a skeleton-crew Grizzlies team that was without Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Marcus Smart among others.

The Raptors couldn’t hold onto the ball as they finished with 17 turnovers, most of which happened in the first quarter as Jaren Jackson Jr. grabbed a career-high six steals in the first 12 minutes of play.

For anyone who watched the game, it was pretty clear that despite it only being an eight-point loss, Toronto was never really in it. More than the lack of efficiency from downtown or the mismanagement of the ball, it came down to effort.

For most of the night, the only players to put forth a noticeable effort worth commending were the likes of Thad Young or Gradey Dick.

Scottie Barnes had a FULL stat line but didn’t really start impacting the game until late into the fourth when the Raptors tried mounting a comeback that was too little too late.

If the undermanned Raptors want to have any chance against a high-powered Clippers team they can’t come out lackadaisical like they did against the Grizzlies.

Game info

Tip-Off: 7:30pm EST | TV: SN | Radio: Sportsnet 1050

Raptors Lineup

PG: Dennis Schroder, Kira Lewis Jr

SG: Gary Trent Jr, Gradey Dick

SF: RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Jalen McDaniels, Jordan Nwora, Garrett Temple

PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Otto Porter Jr.

C: Jontay Porter, Thaddeus Young

Inactives: Immanuel Quickley (thigh contusion), Jakob Poeltl (ankle), Markquis Nowell (hamstring)

Clippers Lineup

PG: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Bones Hyland

SG: Terance Mann, Norman Powell, Brandon Boston Jr.

SF: Paul George (questionable – groin), Amir Coffey

PF: Kawhi Leonard, PJ Tucker

C: Daniel Theis, Mason Plumlee

Inactives: Ivica Zubac (calf), Moussa Diabate (hand fracture)