The Los Angeles Clippers (44-22) snapped their 3 game losing streak and barely pulled off a win against the Toronto Raptors (27-39) 105-100 last night at Staples Center. This was a close game throughout, neither team ever got a double-digit lead. Kawhi Leonard got to play against his previous team. But he is still trying to get back to into the swing of things since returning from injury as he only put up 6 shots for 13 points. The Clippers played better than they had been the previous 3 games. But they were lacking on the defensive end as they allowed Fred VanVleet to go off on them for 27 points.
The Clippers could not contain him and he was the best player on the court the whole night. The defense finally kicked in during the 4th quarter as they only allowed Toronto to score 18 points in the frame. Still, the Raptors looked like they were going to pull off the upset. That is until both Paul George and Reggie Jackson both sunk a late big-time 3 to put them up just enough to secure the W. The Raptors are not a playoff team right now ( although they do have an outside chance of making the play-in) so for the Clippers to let them stay in the game all the way until the closing moments is unacceptable.
STAR OF THE GAME
I don’t normally do this for a player on the losing team, but the best player on the floor last night was Fred VanVleet. He had a double-double of 27 points and 13 assists to go along with 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. In the absence of the Raptors’ best player point guard Kyle Lowery, VanVleet had to take on both the scoring and playmaking load, and he did so admirably. The Clippers just did not know what to do with him. He made big play after big play the whole game. The Raptors stayed in it the whole night, and almost pulled off the win due to his play. Their loss was not on him.
Not enough defensive focus. The Clippers should not have let an inferior team missing their best player to very nearly beat them. We all know the Clips are a much better defensive team than they showed last night. They did finally play some D in the 4th, but they should not have waited that long to do so. They need to be coming out with defensive intensity from the opening tip. Instead they have allowed less talented teams than them to look better than they are for so long.
Patrick Beverley made his return to the floor last night after missing just about a month due to injury. He came off the bench and played well, putting up 8 points on 3 out of 5 shooting, including 2 out of 3 from the 3 point line. The Clippers have been missing his defensive intensity, and his leadership especially during the 3 game losing streak. So to see him come back just in time for the playoffs was great to see. The timetable for his return was 4 to 6 weeks, and he surprisingly came back on the earlier side after only 4. Although, we will see how long he lasts before he inevitably gets hurt again.
Vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday May 6th at 7:00PM Pacific
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Written by Stewart Rau