Clippers take on top team in NBA in Toronto Raptors

Jennifer Stewart

The top team in the NBA will take the court in Los Angeles on Tuesday with a fresh videotape on how to slow down one of the highest-scoring teams in the west.

The Toronto Raptors will gladly take it as their matchup against the Clippers will come following back-to-back defeats, as well as at the start of a four-game West Coast swing. The only other time the Raptors lost consecutive games this season was a three-game slide in mid-November.

The Clippers will be coming off a grueling 123-119 overtime victory at Phoenix against the lowly Suns on Monday, but taking the floor did allow them the chance to distance themselves a bit from a demoralizing defeat to the Miami Heat on Saturday. It is that game against the Heat that might interest the Raptors most.

Because they were down to eight healthy players on the second night of back-to-back games, the Heat used a zone defense against the Clippers. A nod to self-preservation, though, ended up throwing the Clippers’ offense off its axis.

A Clippers team that entered the week fourth in the NBA with 115.6 points per game, scored just eight in the fourth quarter Saturday against the Heat. And that was at home. It turned a one-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter into a head-scratching 121-98 defeat.

“The last couple of games we have been almost inefficient offensively,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said before his team appeared to get back on track against the Suns. “I told our team, it’s a good thing when you have 90 points going into the fourth quarter and you’re upset that your offense is not good. Then in the fourth quarter, obviously, (against Miami) we were not good.”

The Raptors are in something of an offensive funk as well, scoring 105 points per game, while going 1-3 over their last four contests. During an eight-game winning streak that preceded that 1-3 hiccup, the Raptors scored 118.5 points per game, and that included a season-low 93 points in a Nov. 20 victory at Orlando.

While Kawhi Leonard is playing at a high level as he heads back to his native Southern California with a scoring average of 26.1 points per game, Kyle Lowry has been playing below expectations of late.

Lowry has scored 10 points or less in five consecutive games, including no points in 33 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday and three points in 36 minutes at Brooklyn on Friday. Lowry is leading the NBA with 10.0 assists per game, though.

“I have to figure out how to do it; I’ve done it before,” Lowry said about lifting his field goal percentage while continuing to distribute the basketball, according to the Toronto Sun. “Just have to find a way to do both in an efficient way.”

Lou Williams has been a dependable scorer off the bench for the Clippers, but his status for Tuesday’s game is unknown. Williams played just 11 minutes against the Suns on Monday because of a sore left hamstring, but the Clippers still found enough offense to rally for the OT victory.

Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) is likely another 10 days from returning.

The Raptors will be without UCLA product Norman Powell, who has been dealing with a left shoulder subluxation, while Malachi Richardson is day-to-day with a toe injury.