Los Angeles Clippers vs Toronto Raptors: Lineups, preview & prediction 25/3/18
The Raptors have all but sewn up the top seed in the east, and will host a team with plenty to play for when the Clippers visit on Sunday
The Raptors only just shook off a plucky Nets team at home on Friday, but they won’t be too bothered. With a 54-19 record, they have a 4.5 game buffer atop the Eastern Conference standings, and don’t look likely to lose this position in the nine games remaining in the regular season.
Toronto will, however, be more than happy to put a major dent in the playoff aspirations of the Clippers. The Clippers’ 38-34 record has them sitting in tenth place in the west, but at just 2.5 games behind eighth spot, they still remain an outside chance to sneak into the top eight.
Three keys to the game
Are the Raptors losing interest? – Toronto can take things easy for the rest of the regular season and still likely earn the number one seed in the east, and their recent record reflects this. Prior to the Nets game, they lost two games out of three while the game before that they needed overtime to defeat the lowly Mavericks.
The Clippers’ tough stretch – The Los Angeles Clippers have faced a grueling schedule of late, and the Raptors will be the seventh consecutive side bound for the playoffs they have faced. Of these games, they have won just one and must be beginning to feel the pinch from what has been a difficult couple of weeks.
Kyle Lowry’s improved play – Lowry has had somewhat of a down season by his standards, but he’s picked up his game big time in the last week. In his past four games, he is averaging 24 points on 62.5% shooting and has hit a ridiculous 23 3-pointers at a rate of 65.7%. He is also grabbing 5.8 rebounds and dishing out 9.3 assists in this time.
Matchup to watch
Kyle Lowry vs Lou Williams – The point guard matchup will be an entertaining one, with both players in good form. Though Lowry is averaging just 16.8 points this season, 5.6 points less than last season, he has found his touch of late.
Williams has been playing the best basketball of his career this season, with his 22.9 points and 5.4 assists both comfortably career highs. In his most recent outing, he clocked up 27 points while shooting 4-for-6 from long range, and also contributed ten assists and three steals.
With both these players in good touch and capable of putting in a match-winning performance, this could be the matchup which decides the outcome of the game.
Toronto Raptors predicted starting lineup
PG – Kyle Lowry | SG – DeMar DeRozan | SG – OG Anunoby | PF – Serge Ibaka | C – Jonas Valencianas
Los Angeles Clippers predicted starting lineup
PG – Milos Teodosic | SG – Austin Rivers | SF – Tobias Harris | PF – Wesley Johnson | C – DeAndre Jordan
Both sides’ centers had big games in the one matchup between the Raptors and the Clippers this season. In a loss, Valanciunas was Toronto’s best player. He went 8-for-10 from the floor and racked up 23 points, while also grabbing 15 rebounds. Jordan was arguably even more effective, particularly considering his defensive impact, even though his opponent scored relatively heavily. Jordan had 14 points and 17 rebounds to go with four assists, a steal, and two blocks.
The Clippers have been given an eight-point head start by oddsmakers and are a great bet to cover this. Though the Raptors have been dominant at home this season, they have taken their foot off the pedal of late, and are cruising through to the playoffs. The Clippers have much more to play for and will cover this line.
This game will be a lot closer than most people expect, thanks largely to the differing motivations of the teams. Toronto’s recent performances suggest they aren’t operating at full throttle, and they have not performed to their usual high standard in their last five games.
The Clippers, in contrast, have plenty to play for and will put in a good effort in this game led by the efforts of Williams and Jordan. Their best attempts will be in vain though as the Raptors will still have just enough class to edge them out 110-105.
The game will be broadcast locally on TSN and Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Tip-off is at 6pm ET.