Five thoughts on a really disappointing road loss for the Toronto Raptors, 96-91 to the Clippers in LA:
A sloppy first quarter was an indicator of how the night would go
The two teams both looked ragged early, missing shots and generally looking lifeless on offense. The Raptors’ shooting picked up near the end of the quarter and they built a 30-19 lead, but all told both teams shot a combined 18-45 including 4-14 from 3-pt range, and committed 6 turnovers. I was questioning my decision to stay up for this one! But at least one player turned in a good performance worth watching…
Jonas Valanciunas had a great game, but sat too long in the fourth
Valanciunas had it going right from the tip tonight. It seems to me like he relishes these games against traditional bigs, like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and Boogie Cousins; he always seems to get up for them. Jonas was 4-4 in the opening quarter, and he finished the game with 23 points on 8-10, grabbed 15 boards, only committed 3 fouls and didn’t turn the ball over once. It was his best game since opening night, and he was the only Raptor even remotely capable of holding Jordan and the Clippers back on the offensive glass.
That’s why it was completely inexplicable that Dwane Casey sat him at the end of the fourth quarter. Toronto needed his rebounding, and sure enough, two offensive boards (one off a missed free throw) with JV on the bench sealed the game for LA.
The rebounding—and a generally poor effort overall—cost the Raptors tonight
I would like to chalk this one up to just being “one of those nights” where the shots aren’t falling, the Raptors are tired on a road back-to-back, their legs aren’t in their shots etc. All of which is true! But here’s the thing: the Clips shot WORSE.
Toronto 32-80 FGs (40%), 7-29 3FGs (24%)
LA Clippers 34-91 FG (37%), 8-36 3FG (22%)
So this loss wasn’t just about the poor shooting. It was that the Clippers took 18 more shots! They outrebounded the Raptors 57-42, and scored 22 second-chance points to the Raptors’ 5. I hate saying things like, “they just wanted it more” but that’s really what rebounding comes down to; it’s effort.
And let’s give DeAndre Jordan some credit here. After all the stories about how miserable DJ was, I expected the Raps to walk all over him, but he was all over the place on the glass tonight He even 2-2 from the free throw line! All told Jordan had 17 rebounds on the night, 6 of them offensive, along with 15 points. (He played 32.5 minutes; JV played 28. JV should have been on the floor every minute Jordan was.) Five other Clippers had 5 or more rebounds; only two Raptors other than JV had 5 or more boards.
The Toronto Raptors can’t seem to escape a game without at least one terrible quarter
Unfortunately, it was the fourth. The Raptors came in to the quarter with a 4-point lead and generally looked in control; much like Sunday night in Sacramento, they were letting the Clips hang around but I felt confident they’d maintain the lead and put the Clippers away in the final minutes. Instead, it went the other way; after pushing their lead to 81-74 with 6 minutes left, the Raptors let the Clippers finish the game on a 22-10 run, and outrebounded the Raptors 9-4. The Raptors missed 6 of their final 8 shots, and missed went 3-5 from the line in that stretch. I mean, it was ugly.
Were there any positives besides Valanciunas’ play?
They’re pretty tough to find! Lowry had his second straight bad shooting game in a row. Norman Powell was atrociously bad, finishing a game-worst -15. DeMar had another 8 assists—a miracle when your team shoots this poorly—but only went 5-13 himself from the floor. Ibaka’s shooting came back down to earth after a couple great games, but he did have a couple of highlight blocks. Jakob Poeltl got his lunch eaten by Montrezl Harrell… not a whole lot to look back at and say “well at least that worked!” Nothing worked.
Hopefully the Raps shake it off quickly and forget this one; it’s off to Phoenix tomorrow night to play the Suns!