at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Tip-off: Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Clippers can barely keep their heads above water and things won’t be easy against the Raptors on Monday.
Perhaps more than in any other NBA city, things are business as usual in Toronto this year. Team management made a conscious decision over the season to stick with the core of PG Kyle Lowry and SG DeMar DeRozan, and, accordingly, they have seen the same type of results they're used to: hovering somewhere between second and fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. At the Staples Center, though, the Clippers were among the most disrupted teams in the league over this past offseason. PG Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets, with an assembly of role players brought in to replace him. But what has really sunk the Clippers' ship was a recent MCL sprain for Blake Griffin that will likely keep him out for two months, which was maybe the most business-as-usual thing to happen to Los Angeles this year. When the Raptors and Clippers meet in Los Angeles on Monday night, the Clippers while have had a day of rest while the Raps will be coming off a Sunday afternoon game in Sacramento.
Raptors PG Kyle Lowry got off to a weirdly bad start to the season, taking fewer shots from previous years and shooting poorly when he did. But he's looked more like his old self lately, scoring 36 points on 8-of-11 three-point shooting against the Hornets on Wednesday, November 11. This past Tuesday, he made 5-of-10 threes en route to 20 points and 10 assists against the Suns. His three-point percentage is up above 40% for the year, a significant cut above his career numbers in that category. SG DeMar DeRozan remains an elite scorer, despite not having developed the long-range game that some thought he might over the summer. He had 30 points in the same Charlotte game that Lowry had 36, and he came pretty much as close as he ever does to a triple-double against the Suns with 20 points, eight assists and seven boards. PF Serge Ibaka has continued the extension of his offensive game that began a couple years ago, although his rebounds are under 6.0 RPG for the first time since his rookie season. He's also playing under 30 minutes per game for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Rookie SF O.G. Anunoby has been both the rangy defender he was projected to be and a pleasant surprise as a scorer, although he'll occasionally barely score at all. C Jonas Valanciunas rounds out the starting five, but looks more and more like a relic of an older league with each passing game. SF Norm Powell switches between starting and leading the bench unit, and he's done an especially good job in the latter role.
The Clippers were bad even with Griffin in the lineup this season, but he provided an extremely talented and capable player through which the team could center its offense. Without him, they're completely lost. They also lost PG Pat Beverley, their best perimeter defender by a longshot, for the season to a devastating knee injury. It should tell you everything that PG Austin Rivers easily led the starters in field goal attempts in a loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, although he did play well, scoring 23 on 9-of-18 shooting. SG Lou Williams had 23 on 9-of-20 shooting, and he's going to be the most frequent leading scorer for this team coming off the bench. He's a gunner, but showed both last season and early through this year that he's one of the most efficient gunners in the league. The Clippers are fortunate to have someone so effective at creating his own shot, not that it will make much of a difference. C DeAndre Jordan is the last man standing of the trio he formed with Paul and Griffin, but he's become the subject of pretty serious trade rumors lately. He's still a rebounding machine and an intimidating defensive presence, and another team could put him to better use. SF Danilo Gallinari returned to the lineup against the Wolves on Wednesday after an extended injury absence, but played pretty poorly with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting in 26 minutes. He figures to get plenty of shots in this depleted lineup.