Clippers, Raptors square off as both teams shorthanded
TORONTO — It will be matchup of struggling teams Monday when the Toronto Raptors play the Los Angeles Clippers at the Rogers Centre.
The Raptors (31-21) at least have something to build on after defeating the woeful Brooklyn Nets 103-95 on Sunday. It was only Toronto’s third win in the past 11 games.
Meanwhile, the Clippers (31-20) lost 107-102 to the Celtics in Boston on Sunday, their sixth defeat in the past eight games. Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford each scored 23 points for Los Angeles, and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 16 rebounds.
Both teams have been playing without important players. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan missed seven of the past eight games since spraining his right ankle on Jan. 22 against the Phoenix Suns.
Kyle Lowry, who forms an All-Star guard tandem with DeRozan, is piling up the minutes in DeRozan’s absence. He produced his ninth career triple-double Sunday with 15 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.
The Clippers have been without Chris Paul since he tore a ligament in his left thumb on Jan. 16.
“When you have a guy out like Chris, you don’t have a margin for error,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. “Right now, we’re allowing teams to score too many points.”
The Clippers allowed an average of 118.9 points during their past eight games.
“If we don’t get better as a team, it’s going to be an early exit (from the playoffs) for us, like it has been the past few years,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to change something. We’ve got to get better, because this is not doing it.”
Like the Clippers, the Raptors are dealing with defensive problems. That aspect of the game has not been helped by the frequent absences of Patrick Patterson to a strained left knee that cost him 11 games since Dec. 29. He sustained a contusion to the knee Friday that forced him from a loss to the Orlando Magic. He also did not play Sunday.
Even without Patterson, the Raptors were able to defend well against the Nets.
“We’ve played good defense in stretches, and we extended it tonight,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We had some droughts, but for the most part we extended our defensive performance for more minutes, and that’s been our biggest issue, even back to the Boston game (a loss on Wednesday).
Lowry said, “It’s one game, and we’ve got to find ways to continue to get better. We had one win and then we lost two and then we had one win. We gotta find a way to put win, win, win, win — we’ve got to put a string together and we’ve got to just continue to figure it out. It’s been a rough patch for us, it’s been a rough stretch for us, but we all have the confidence in each other just to keep working.”
Raptors reserve guard Cory Joseph was given a break the past two games, and his spot was taken by Fred VanVleet, who had a career-best 15 points with four assists on Friday and added 10 points and three assists Sunday.
The Clippers made it close against the Celtics in the late stages of the game Sunday, and former Celtic Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of what will be his final regular-season appearance at the TD Garden.
“I’m glad I was able to cap it off,” Pierce said. “At least I can say I put one last bucket in.”
Raymond Felton added 16 points off the bench Sunday for the Clippers. He earned praise from Rivers for being able to play through injuries that include a sore right shoulder.