The way Blake Griffin saw it, a sloppy effort by the Los Angeles Clippers only made things easier for Rudy Gay and the fired-up Raptors.
Gay wowed a sellout crowd by scoring 20 points in his Toronto debut, leading the Raptors to a 98-73 rout of the short-handed Clippers on Friday night.
”The way we played had a big effect on their flow,” Griffin said. ”Not to take anything away from them – they did a good job — but our defense was terrible.”
The Clippers were pretty terrible on offense, too, setting season lows for points and field goal percentage (34.7). Los Angeles’ previous low in points was 76 at Brooklyn on Nov. 23, while its previous low in field goal percentage was 36.6 on Jan. 19 in a home win over Washington.
”We didn’t execute very well, we didn’t shoot it very well,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”We struggled in a lot of areas.”
Amir Johnson had 19 points and matched his career high with 16 rebounds for the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan also scored 19 as Toronto welcomed Gay with a winning effort two days after the high-scoring forward was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team trade that included Detroit.
”It felt great to be accepted like I (was) today,” said Gay, who got a standing ovation before checking in for the first time. ”It just makes you want to play hard.”
John Lucas scored 17 and Aaron Gray had seven points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who handed the Clippers their fourth straight loss in Toronto and their largest defeat of the season.
”Our guys came in locked and loaded,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Griffin had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who were without point guard Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap) for the sixth straight game. Los Angeles forward Matt Barnes served a one-game suspension for striking Minnesota’s Greg Stiemsma on Wednesday.
The absences forced the Clippers into some new-look lineups, but the juggling didn’t help.
”Nothing worked very well tonight,” Del Negro said. ”I don’t think any of the rotations or anything were very efficient.”
Griffin said the Clippers could have benefited from Barnes’ defense.
”He’s a very big part of our team’s success,” Griffin said. ”We definitely missed him, but we can’t sit back on that.”
Jamal Crawford scored 14 points, Caron Butler had 12 and Eric Bledsoe 10 for Los Angeles, which has dropped five of eight overall.
”We did a poor job of defending easy looks,” Griffin said. ”They hit some tough shots, but we did a poor job overall of stopping plays in transition or wide-open jump shots. We did a poor job on the defensive glass. Little things like that add up and you can’t win a game like that.”
Toronto traded Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for Gay, who came off the bench in his Raptors debut but wasted little time exciting his new fans. He scored seven points in the first quarter, when he was on the receiving end of two alley-oop passes from DeRozan, as the Raptors built a 22-17 advantage after one.
”Great teammates,” Gay said. ”They all helped me, they helped me get in the right spots and make sure I didn’t look too bad out there.”
Toronto led 29-28 with 4:20 left in the second before DeRozan scored nine points as the Raptors pulled away, closing the half on a 17-2 run to lead 46-30 at the break. The Clippers hurt themselves by making just three of 15 field goal attempts in the second quarter.
”As poor as we were in the first half offensively, we were right there,” Clippers forward Grant Hill said. ”In the last four minutes of the second it kind of got away from us. The next thing you know, we’re down 16.”
Gay’s only basket in the third was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Raptors a 72-45 edge heading into the fourth.
”I love Rudy’s game,” Griffin said. ”He’s going to be great for the Raptors.”
This was the second game of an eight-game road trip for the Clippers, who visit Boston on Sunday. … Los Angeles had a season-low 25 field goals. … Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas returned after missing 18 games with a broken right ring finger, but C Andrea Bargnani (right elbow) remains sidelined. Valanciunas went scoreless in 13 minutes. … Kyle Lowry had eight of Toronto’s 30 assists. … The Raptors have led after the first quarter in eight straight games. They are 3-5 during that span. … The sellout was Toronto’s fifth of the season.