After a well deserved break, the Toronto Raptors will try to hold on to their first place position atop the Eastern Conference with a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Raptors (22-7) currently sit only a game ahead of the surging Atlanta Hawks (21-8) after dropping their last contest in Chicago. On the other hand, the Clippers (20-10) are coming off a 100-86 Christmas Day victory against the Western conference leading Golden State Warriors. Saying this road trip will be a tough test is an understatement. These are games that the Raps aren’t going to be favoured in by any means. Thus, a good question would be – could you really make money by betting on the Raps?
This should be a high scoring affair as both the Raptors and Clippers rank top-5 for points scored per game this season. The Kyle Lowry vs. Chris Paul head-to-head should make for another spectacular point guard duel so sit tight Raptor fans; this game should be good.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
It’s evident that the Clippers are an experienced team that likes to get up and down the court. The Raptors have been off for four consecutive days, without the luxury of a Christmas Day game. Playing the Clippers, mean the Raptors need to prepare themselves to get out in transition, because Los Angeles is a team that likes to move the ball. A sluggish start for Toronto could put them in a hole that may be too difficult to overcome. If the Raptors appear lethargic in this afternoon game; they’ll have problems all game trying to contain the explosiveness of the Clippers front court.
With a juicy point guard matchup between Lowry and Paul, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Lowry is a dominant guard who some times puts too much of the onus on himself. The Raptors aren’t a great passing team in terms of assist totals. However when the Raptors focus on players getting multiple touches per possession than good things happen for Toronto. One player will not be able to single handedly take down the Clippers (see Terrence Ross’ 51-point performance). Get the ball moving, break down the defence and attempt high percentage shots. This is all I ask for.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are notorious for their all out assault on the rim. The Clippers have two of the most athletic big men in the NBA on their roster. Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson will need to make sure their forcing these guys off their sweet spots. By making it uncomfortable for them before the catch as opposed to after, Toronto will put themselves in the position to limit both Griffin and Jordan’s effectiveness for the majority of the game. Jordan shoots a relatively high percentage from the field, but is terrible from the free throw line. Don’t be surprised if Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes got some early burn to give up a few hacks here and there.
X-Factor: Lou Williams
Today’s X-Factor is Toronto Raptors guard Lou Williams. In Williams’ last contest he went 0-4 from beyond the arc and missed some shots he normally sticks. With time to get into the gym over the last few days expect Sweet Lou to be back in top form. Williams has been drawing comparisons to Jamaal Crawford all season long, so it should be interesting to see the two go head to head in a battle of the benches.
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