The Toronto Raptors were missing several key players on Tuesday night, but battled hard and lead for most of the game before losing late to the Los Angeles Clippers 105-100. Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr were all unavailable for Toronto at the Staples Center, while the Clippers were able to field a fairly healthy lineup in what was their first win in their last four.
The Clippers had a more balanced attack than usual on Tuesday evening, getting multiple players to step up beyond their typical role. Marcus Morris scored 22 points on 8/11 shooting alongside 6 rebounds, while Reggie Jackson scored 18 points to go with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Paul George and former Raptor Kawhi Leonard didn’t have their best games, but still remained effective. George scored 22 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, while Leonard was held to just 13 points on 6 shots, but added 5 assists.
For Toronto, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet had to shoulder a majority of the offensive load, and kept their team in the game for the entirety of the night. VanVleet scored 27 points and recorded a season-high 13 assists, while Siakam scored 24 points and collected 7 rebounds. Toronto got contributions from some other faces as well, with big man Khem Birch scoring 13 points and getting 8 rebounds, and second-round draft pick Jalen Harris having the best game of his young NBA career, scoring 11 points on a perfect 4/4 from the field.
Often times down the stretch this season, Toronto has been heavily outmatched in terms of bench points, but the bench did their part on the night alongside the rest of the team. Toronto’s reserves actually outscored the Clippers bench 25-22, and as a whole, they looked like the better team for the first 40-or-so minutes. At the end of a long west coast road trip, Toronto’s tired legs may have gotten the better of them in the fourth though, where the offence all-but dried up. Unfortunately for the Raptors, this isn’t a one-off incident, as the late game offence has been a continuous problem as of late. The ball movement seemed to slow down in the final minutes, and when the Clippers locked in on defence, a depleted Raptors team had little to go to when they needed a shot the most.
Toronto had a good start to the tilt, going back and forth in a game that most thought would be a blowout before tip-off. They continued their momentum into the second frame, and led by Siakam and VanVleet managed to take a surprising 6 point lead into the half. Even after a poor final few minutes in the third, things were tied up 82-82 after three quarters, and Toronto put themselves in position to steal a win before faltering late on the offensive side of the ball.
With both the Bulls and Wizards idle on Tuesday night, the Raptors needed a win to keep themselves in the race for the final play-in spot in the eastern conference. With the loss, Toronto now falls to 3.5 games behind Washington with only 6 games remaining, giving them a monstrous, and near impossible hill to climb.
Looking ahead, Toronto will try and save their season one last time on Thursday as they take on the Wizards back ‘home’ in Tampa, while the Clippers will also be back in action two days from now as they take on the Lebron-less Lakers in a battle of LA.
VanVleet – 27 PTS 2 REB 13 AST
Siakam – 23 PTS 7 REB 2 AST
Birch – 13 PTS 8 REB 0 AST
Harris – 11 PTS 1 REB 1 AST
George – 22 PTS 9 REB 4 AST
Morris Sr. – 22 PTS 6 REB 2 AST
Jackson – 18 PTS 5 REB 5 AST
Leonard – 13 PTS 3 REB 5 AST