The Toronto Raptors will make the trip to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers in a Monday night matchup. This will be Kawhi Leonard’s first meeting with his former team that he led to its first NBA title last season.
Doing Okay Without Him
The Raptors are off to a fast start this season, sitting at 7-2 so far. They have won their last three games after suffering a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks back on Nov. 2. A lot of people were not sure how the Raptors would perform with the departure of Leonard, but things have looked good so far with other players stepping up and helping to fill his role.
One player who has progressed well for the Raptors is power forward Pascal Siakam. The 25-year-old is averaging 27.4 points per game this season along with 9.4 rebounds. Two games ago, he posted a career-high 44 points against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Speaking of players progressing, a guy who seemed to come out of nowhere in the playoffs last year was Fred VanVleet. The Toronto guard leads the team with 7.7 assists per game and also averages 16 points and 4.4 rebounds.
As a team, the Raptors are averaging 115.2 points per game while allowing 107.7. They have been one of the better defensive teams in the NBA this season, which is not something you see a lot of in today’s style of play. Despite losing their biggest superstar this past offseason, the Raptors could very well be on their way back to the playoffs this year.
Not Missing This One
No need to worry before placing your money on the Clippers, despite the load management talk, Leonard will be in the lineup against his former team. With Leonard on the court, the Clippers are favored by 10 points in this game.
We talked a little about the Raptors defense, but the Clippers are a team that seemed to put defense at the top of its list when building its roster. Between Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley, they could have one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Los Angeles is currently posting 113.4 points per game while allowing just 109. While they have had some close games already this season, the Clippers’ ability to seal the win in the fourth quarter has led them to a 6-3 record to start the year.
Leonard is leading the team in points with 29 per game while also topping the team with 8.1 rebounds per game. Clippers guard Lou Williams is leading the team with 5.8 assists while also scoring 22.4 points per game.
One player they are waiting to get into their rotation to help the season really take off is George, who is currently rehabbing and is listed as doubtful for this game. George has yet to do anything for the Clippers this season, but when he finally hits the floor, he hopes to hit the ground running and put them in a position to get to the NBA Finals.
What To Expect
The Clippers are favored in this game for good reason, as they have a better roster on paper and home-court advantage. They also have the big-time star in Leonard who can take over a game at any point and get them the win. With that being said, I think 10 points may be too steep with Toronto’s solid defensive play. I like the Clippers to win but by less than 10.