PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 1, 2013
Tipoff: 4:00 p.m. PST | Air Canada Centre | Toronto, ON | Game Notes »
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TORONTO –The coldest part of the road trip continues Friday.
The Clippers, who arrived in Toronto early Thursday morning, take on the Raptors at Air Canada Centre Friday night in game two of their season-long eight-game road trip.
Once again, the team may be without Chris Paul, who has missed eight of the last 10 games with a bruised right kneecap.
It is the second, and final, meeting of the season between the Clippers (34-13) and Raptors (16-30). Previously, the Clippers defeated Toronto, 102-83, on Dec. 9 as part of their franchise-record 17-game winning streak. The Raptors come into Friday’s game losers of their last three and eight of their last 10.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 96, Timberwolves 90: The Clippers opened their road trip with a comeback from 11 points down in the second quarter. Caron Butler made a key 3-pointer with 2:45 left to give the Clippers a two-point lead and DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford all made significant contributions down the stretch as they escaped Target Center with their second straight win.
“We just had to weather the storm,” Bledsoe said. “They were hitting most everything they shot. I think we did a great job of locking in and making it tougher for them to make shots in the 2nd quarter.”
Griffin finished with game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (13) and converted a wild 3-point play to put the Clippers up six in the final minute. Jordan scored 16 points with 12 rebounds and two blocks. And Crawford scored 17 off the bench (nine in the final period) to help the Clippers overcome their early deficit and the ejection of Matt Barnes, who was called for a flagrant foul penalty 2 in the second quarter after he shoved Greg Stiemsma near his neck with his forearm.
Hawks 93, Raptors 92: Toronto lost another close one Wednesday to the Hawks, battling back after getting outscored 30-14 in the third quarter to have a shot to win on the final possession at Philips Arena in Atlanta. But Alan Anderson’s jumper went array and DeMar DeRozan’s put-back attempt was rejected by Al Horford, who had given the Hawks the lead on the previous possession. The play drew the ire of Toronto’s staff and roster after it appeared Horford made contact with DeRozan’s arm on the shot.
DeRozan finished with a team-high 23 points, Anderson had 15 and John Lucas scored a season-high 19 points in the loss.
Eric Bledsoe vs. Kyle Lowry. Bledsoe continued his stretch of filling up the box score without Paul. He had 10 points, 10 assists and six steals on Wednesday, becoming just the fifth Clipper to do so in the last 20 years. He’s still learning on the job, but with each start seems to be growing in confidence and assertiveness. It’s something that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has noticed from afar.
“He’s done a heck of job for them and I’ll tell you what, he could start for most teams in the NBA,” Casey said. “Their team is as deep as any team in the league, but Bledsoe’s done a good job filling in for Chris [Paul]. They don’t run as many pick-and-rolls with him, but his speed and his attack mode, and now his decision-making, is much better than where it was a year ago.”
Bledsoe will be matched up with big-bodied offseason acquisition Kyle Lowry, who has missed 14 games with a variety of ailments but has taken on the role as the full-time starter following Jose Calderon being traded to the Pistons.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Managing a close game. The Clippers pulled out their game against Minnesota thanks to what Jordan called “okay” execution down the stretch. That has been the challenge without Paul, getting the offense organized in the fourth quarter and executing. It ailed them in the final 2:38 at Portland and against Golden State with Paul hobbled by his knee injury.
"We have to do a better job of making the game easier with ball movement and making some shots and being a little bit more consistent offensively,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.
The Raptors have incurred even bigger issues in the fourth quarter. They were 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer in January and lost three overtime games (including a 107-105 home loss to the Bulls).
No distractions. Swingman Rudy Gay, who was acquired by the Raptors in three-team trade on Wednesday, was introduced to the media Friday, but is not expected to play against the Clippers. Casey said he does not want the trade, which sent longtime point guard Calderon to Detroit and youngster Ed Davis to the Grizzlies, to be a distraction.
“Guys have moved on [from the trade] and everybody’s focus is on the Clippers,” Casey said at shoot-around Friday. “There are no side-effects. To lose two friends, that’s human nature, you’ve got to take that in mind, but we know we all have a job to do.”
Still, Raptors leading scorer DeRozan said it is difficult to lose a pair of teammates in midstream. “It was tough because people don’t realize that me and Ed came up through high school basketball together, camps every single thing. I’m real close with his family and vice versa,” DeRozan said. “It’s always tough no matter who you are if you’ve got a close friend that gets traded. Even with Jose, that’s definitely tough.”
The Clippers have lost their last three games in Toronto, last winning, 102-98, on Feb. 8, 2008. They did not play the Raptors north of the border last season… Jonas Valanciunas (finger) and Andre Bargnani (elbow) are both listed as game-time decisions, according to Casey… The Clipper shave scored 100 points or more just three times in the last 12 games… Griffin is shooting 72.6% from the free throw line in his last 13 games… Watch for Casey to use a small lineup when Lamar Odom is in the game, featuring Anderson or Landry Fields at power forward… The Clippers own the fourth best road winning percentage in the league (.636), behind Chicago, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
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