Tonight the Toronto Raptors square up against a Western Conference juggernaut; the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams have identical records at 33-17 heading into tonight’s matchup. Most recently the Raptors have dropped two straight games at home in embarrassing fashion. The Clippers are also coming off a pretty embarrassing loss against the Cavs where they were down 32 points allowing Cleveland to bench LeBron James and Kevin Love for the entirety of the fourth quarter. For Toronto, this game marks the first of eight against opponents with a winning record. These next eight contests could drastically change the landscape of the Eastern conference for the Raptors depending on whether they pull together as a team or crack under the pressure of a tough schedule. Either way, there’s some exciting basketball for Raptors fans on the horizon as both teams are frustrated with their recent performances and are hungry for a win.
Cage’s Keys to the Game
Defend From Downtown
The Clippers are one of the best 3-point shooting teams and have connected on .376 of their attempts, good for fifth overall in the association. They take a lot of threes per game (26.1) and convert a ton of them (9.8). This should come as no surprise as Los Angeles features skilled marksmen from top to bottom in Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and the improving Blake Griffin. Toronto’s perimeter defenders struggle to switch and defend the three, as evidenced in the loss to the Nets, so look for the Clippers to try and exploit this weakness.
Los Angeles thrives in transition and love to the push the floor with their general Paul and high-flying dunkers Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The athletic and mobile tandem of Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson can cover their tracks but the young Jonas Valanciunas is slow-footed, unable to contain to full court. Expect Coach Casey set his defense quickly after a basket and apply aggressive man-to-man pressure.
Walk the Line
As Leo Rautins has pointed out in previous broadcasts, one of the best mechanisms to counter the quick break is to get to the charity stripe. The Raptors are still league leaders in this regard, attempting 25.3, though they have deviated from this strength over their past two games – 18 against Milwaukee and a lousy 13 against Brooklyn.
X-Factor: Greivis Vasquez
Greivis Vasquez was a key catalyst in their last matchup, scoring 16 points, adding 6 assists to go with 4 boards en route to a 110-98 victory. The Venezuelan native hems and haws but has been deadly from downtown over his past five games in a starter role, hitting at an impressive .571 clip. He loves being