The Toronto Raptors fell short in a 98-88 Monday night loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, despite a poor offensive performance from former Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The Raptors were without all-star point guard Kyle Lowry and another productive component in Serge Ibaka, who are both out due to injuries suffered a few nights prior. Starting forward OG Anunoby also left during an early possession after being poked in the eye, and didn’t return for the remainder of the game. Head coach Nick Nurse adjusted the Raptors rotation and it seemed to work quite well, with some new additions stepping up to fill the shoes of those who were out.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson played some solid minutes for the Raptors, most notably on defence while matched with Leonard, who put up a quiet 12 points in a tight battle against his former team.
Many Torontonians had this game circled on their calendars, as it marked Leonard’s first appearance against the Raptors following their historic championship run last season.
During Leonard’s short and sweet stint in Toronto, he and Nurse devised a controversial resting plan – referred to as “load management” – that would have Leonard sitting out on back-to-back games during the regular season. This resulted in Leonard playing only 60 games out of the scheduled 82 games to rest a previous injury and prepare for the post-season. Load management has now followed Leonard to the Clippers, and many have weighed in their thoughts.
Since his departure from the Raptors this past summer, Leonard has been the subject of many criticisms concerning his loyalty, his health and his quiet demeanour. Last week, the Clippers organization was fined $50,000 for the loose and careless comments coach Doc Rivers made concerning Leonard’s health, which danced around the idea that Leonard had no reason to sit out for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Despite Leonard’s performance Monday, the Clippers were able to pull off a win, in part due to the impressive work from Lou Williams, also a former Raptor, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
A new-look Raptors
Following a shocking upset victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Raptors headed into the Clippers match with their heads high and ready to compete.
With the departure of Leonard and Danny Green during the off-season, and the inconvenient injuries suffered by Lowry and Ibaka, the Raptors faced a lack of depth on their roster, with some players having to suddenly step into new roles and adjust accordingly.
Nurse looked to Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet to generate more offence than usual, with both of them clocking in over 40 minutes of game time. VanVleet was able to control traffic on offence and find some open looks for himself and his teammates. Siakam continues to step up and fulfil a larger role for the Raptors in the absence of Leonard, and could even make a run at Most Valuable Player if his game continues to flourish.
Chris Boucher had an impressive game on both ends, besides a botched offensive possession late in the fourth quarter that led to a turnover and bucket for the Clippers with less than a minute left. The Canadian finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and two blocks – one of which denied Montrezl Harrell from dunking on him.
The Raptors have a second chance against the Clippers when Leonard returns to Toronto on Dec. 11 for their final matchup of the regular season.