The Los Angeles Clippers can assure themselves of a winning three-game road trip Friday night when they face the Toronto Raptors, who are gradually returning to full strength.
The Clippers opened their trip with a 91-82 victory Wednesday over the Boston Celtics, who were only 4-for-42 in 3-point attempts.
“I just think playing a lot of zone got them out of their rhythm,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think that’s what hurt them the most.”
The Raptors are coming off a 114-109 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday that saw the return of Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and Malachi Flynn from COVID-19 protocol.
Others are following. Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby cleared health and safety protocol and returned to practice Thursday. A COVID-19 list that reached 10 for the 144-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday is now down to two.
“I know everyone cares about their health, but they’re anxious to get back on the floor and play and help, play together as a team, and hopefully we get some wins together,” Siakam said. “That’s what we care about.”
With Siakam (28 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Trent (19 points, seven assists) each playing more than 41 minutes, Toronto came back to lead Philadelphia by one point with 1:41 to play on Trent’s 3-pointer. Joel Embiid, however, put Philadelphia ahead to stay with 51.3 seconds remaining on a putback layup.
“I think (Siakam and Trent) got pretty tired, but it was certainly a night for them to get conditioning,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “The biggest thing is, I thought they played really hard on defense, and I thought they continued to try to carry the load on offense.”
The Clippers also have been undermanned.
Among the missing for the Clippers on Wednesday were Paul George (elbow), Reggie Jackson and Brandon Boston Jr.
Jackson, who cleared COVID-19 health and safety protocol on Wednesday, still required conditioning before returning. Boston entered health and safety protocol on Wednesday.
Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers on Wednesday with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Morris entered COVID-19 protocols on Dec. 18 and returned to play Monday against the Brooklyn Nets.
“I feel like my breathing is a little bit, you know, a little funny,” Morris said. “But, you know we’ve got a job to do. I came out and just continued to play my game and continued to help my team win.”
The Clippers made 14 turnovers and had only nine offensive rebounds while the Celtics grabbed 21.
“Winning ugly is pretty,” Lue said. “We’ll take this win. It’s a big win for us, gets us off the skid and hopefully we can build off this one.”
The Clippers had lost five of six before defeating Boston. They complete the trip Saturday at Brooklyn.
The Raptors have lost two straight after having two games postponed because of COVID-19 issues, which left them with an eight-day gap between games.
They had a big game on Tuesday from Chris Boucher, who scored 28 points and matched his career best with 19 rebounds going against Embiid (36 points, 11 rebounds).
“He was ready to take the challenge,” Nurse said. “Had a little meeting with him before the game about giving away a couple of pounds, so just do your best.”
–Field Level Media