L.A. Clippers at Toronto Raptors
Time: 6 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: LAC -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Toronto Raptors snapped a three-game skid by defeating the Chicago Bulls 93-92 last outing. It will host the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, home of its former team leader Kawhi Leonard, at 6 PM CST on ESPN. The Clippers visit Toronto as 2.5-point favorites and the over/under is set at 221.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
L.A. News & Notes:
The Los Angeles Clippers are 18-7 and trail only its hometown rival, the L.A. Lakers for the crown of the Pacific division. The Clips are finally all healthy, but it was able to stay afloat through injuries to Paul George and some nagging injuries that caused the team to “manage the load” of its superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers do have such resplendent depth, however, that it can afford to have at least one or two of its rotational players underperform and still notch the ‘Ws.’ Los Angeles has a +7.8 point differential as it holds opponents to just 108.3 per game while scoring 115.1 itself.
Through 25 games, Leonard leads the Clips in scoring average at 25.1 points per game. He is averaging 3.4 turnovers per game. George is averaging 23.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3,6 assists per game. Williams clocks in as No. 3 scorer at 20.0 per.
Harrell is the Clips’ fourth double-digit scorer at 19.1 points per game and with an efficiency rating of 24.39. The Clippers have four others averaging seven points per game or better, and the team is shooting 45.6 percent from the floor and 35.5 percent from three (on 32.9 attempts per game). L.A. is a team with very few glaring flaws, and it should make a push to be the 2020 NBA champions with the field more or less wide open now that the Golden State Warriors are made up of rag-tag castaways and no longer the vaunted threat it was over the past half-decade.
Toronto News & Notes:
The Toronto Raptors were expected to crash and burn after losing superstar Kawhi Leonard to its opponent tonight, but that has hardly happened. Toronto is 7-2 and has won three straight. The Raptors sport the leagues No. 13 offense, averaging 111.7 points per game while holding opponents to 105.3 (No. 24). Toronto has dominated the glass, averaging 46.3 rebounds per game.
Much of the credit for Toronto sustaining its excellence after losing one of the game’s best two-way players in Leonard has to go to Pascal Siakam. His per-game averages are up across the board: 24.5 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 blocks/steals per game.
All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry has been his usual good and consistent self, and perhaps what has really enabled Toronto to maintain—even more than Siakam’s emergence—is that Fred VanVleet is becoming an assassin now that he is in the starting lineup. VanVleet is averaging 18 points and seven assists per game. He has helped take off some of the playmaking pressure from Lowry, while essentially giving the Raptors a second starting point guard. It has worked well.
Serge Ibaka has been a consistent source offense and rebounding, while OG Anunoby is having a rebound year after a tough sophomore campaign a year ago. Anunoby is averaging 11 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while playing just under 30 minutes per night. The elephant in the room may be Marc Gasol, whose decline as a player is becoming more and more evident. He is only averaging 6.3 points and seven rebounds per game. He does function well as a high post passer, averaging 3.5 assists and helping as a secondary playmaker when Lowry seeks to score more.
The Raptors will tighten its rotation up to eight men likely by the postseason unless Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Patrick McCaw become bigger factors. Both have been something of a disappointment in the second unit, but with so many other things going right, the Raps are still an Eastern Conference contender of sorts, though its chances of repeating as champions is rather slim.