Wednesday, March 29, 2023

NBA Preview: Toronto Raptors (32-34) at Los Angeles Clippers (34-33)

The Los Angeles Clippers prioritized getting Russell Westbrook into the flow, but it now appears that the team’s primary focus is a renewed commitment on the defensive end.

When the Clippers play host to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, they will have a great opportunity to work on defensive principles. Toronto was 23rd in the NBA with 112.6 points per game, while Los Angeles was just 22nd with 112.7 points per game.

In a double-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 24, the Clippers were blown out by 176 points. Since that night, they have given up 131.7 points per game and gone 0-5. Westbrook made his Clippers debut in the team’s 176-175 loss to the Kings.

The Clippers gave up 129 points even in their victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, 51 of which came in the third quarter alone. In the fourth quarter, Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue changed his defense, which helped the team win.

While the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies with a 17-0 fourth-quarter run, their opponent was severely depleted, missing four key contributors, including star Ja Morant.

On Monday, the Raptors lost on the road to the Denver Nuggets by a score of 118-113.

One of the Raptors’ better victories of the season may have come against the best team in the Western Conference. However, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes was called for a technical foul after teammate Jakob Poeltl was called for an inside foul while Denver was leading by one in the final minute.

The Nuggets won the game by making all three of their subsequent free throw attempts.

In the loss, the Raptors were led by Fred VanVleet, who scored 21 points and had 14 assists. Pascal Siakam scored 19, while Poeltl scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Barnes scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

The Raptors, who have won nine of their last ten games since February 3, play the Lakers on Friday in Los Angeles. After that, Toronto only plays one away game over the next eight games before a crucial five-game road trip just before the regular season’s end.

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