The LA Clippers travel to the East Coast and North to Canada for a pre-Super Bowl tilt against the Toronto Raptors. The Clippers have dropped back-to-back games, after winning their previous 3, and get a much tougher opponent Sunday. Toronto has lost 3 of their last 4 games, after tallying 8 wins in their previous 9 contests, and will look to the early tip to get back into the win column.
Raptors excel at both ends of the floor
Toronto’s recent slide can be misconstrued as a sudden stretch of bad play. However, their 3 losses in the last 4 games have all come against top NBA teams: at Indiana (day of Oladipo’s injury and Kawhi Leonard DNP – by 4 points), at Houston (by 2) and most recently at home to Milwaukee (by 13). The set back does not detail the Raptors highly efficient offense carrying them to a 2nd place record in the East. Ranked 4th in 2-pt FG%, 5th in FT% and 3rd in PPG, Toronto puts a lot of pressure on their opponents to convert shots on limited attempts.
Just as their 8th ranked offense pushes teams to be efficient, Toronto’s 8th ranked defense adds an extra layer of pressure to take care of the ball on every possession. The Raptors are very strong at running shooters off of the 3-pt line (6th in OPP 3-pt %) and forcing turnovers (8th in steals and 9th in OPP TO%). The ability of the Raptors to jump passing lanes, maintain active hands on the ball handler, and create turnovers easily explains why opposing teams are afforded very limited uncontested opportunities.
Clippers looking for consistency and an end to their skid
Losses to the Hawks and Lakers in back-to-back outings have the Clippers reeling. 4 wins in their last 12 games have soured the high expectations and projections for this team, after holding 1st place in the Western Conference in early December. LA has been unable to keep any sense of consistency from game to game to stay competitive in the standings. Their average defensive rating (23rd in the NBA) has been a thorn for their productive offense this season.
The Clippers are highly regarded for their overall shooting % (10th), 3-pt shooting (4th) and efficiency at the free throw line (7th). However, their shooting inside the 3-pt arc (23th) dampens any hopes of converting many opportunities. LA defends teams well on the defensive end of the floor, but are more likely to trade baskets with their opponents because they do not create many turnovers. The Clippers allow a fairly high amount of free throws to their opponents and grant extra chances to hang around or pull away.
The Clippers enter Sunday’s contest looking like a lost team. Their fall from 1st place has been further hastened by a lack of consistency against ‘bad’ teams let alone winning difficult games. Now facing one of the premier teams in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors are in a prime spot to get back on track and exact a decisive victory to the visitors. Toronto is too efficient at both ends of the floor for the Clippers to hang tough in this matchup.
4* Toronto Raptors -10