ONCE-RESTED RAPS NO LONGER EN­JOY SCHED­ULE’S PERKS

Toronto took ad­van­tage of tired Clip­pers with War­riors wait­ing for cru­cial matchup

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - MIKE GANTER Oak­land mgan­[email protected]­media.com

This time the shoe was on the other foot.

In Tues­day night’s 123-99 win over the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers, the Rap­tors had the dis­tinct ad­van­tage of be­ing the more rested team.

The Clip­pers made it to Los An­ge­les hours af­ter the Rap­tors, hav­ing ex­pended a ton of en­ergy in an over­time win in Phoenix on Mon­day night.

The Rap­tors turned down the op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise on Mon­day. They did fly to Los An­ge­les, but with noth­ing on the sched­ule, it was a rather rest­ful day for the NBA’s top club in points.

That ad­van­tage played out Tues­day night in Toronto’s favour as the Rap­tors ab­sorbed an early push by the Clip­pers and then sim­ply wore them down with an up­tempo game the Clip­pers could have clearly done with­out.

“Pace,” said Kyle Lowry of the dif­fer­ence in this one. “They had a tough one (Mon­day) night in Phoenix. Had to go into over­time and put some ex­tra juice into it. But our pace was great. We didn’t let them (rest). We didn’t slow it down. We kept go­ing, kept go­ing and I think that kind of helped us.”

Danny Green saw it, too. The Clip­pers, who have been so good at home this year and have to be con­sid­ered one of the sur­prise teams to date, came out strong, hit­ting from dis­tance and putting an early scare into the Rap­tors be­fore Toronto’s fresher legs took the game over.

“Once they started miss­ing a lit­tle bit, it took some of their con­fi­dence and you could tell they were fa­tigued from Mon­day night,” Green said. “That was in our favour. It started with one or two stops and then it just trick­led on.”

But just as there is truth in the sched­ule win, there is also truth in the sched­ule loss and there is the real pos­si­bil­ity that the Rap­tors will be on that end of things Wednes­day night at Or­a­cle Arena in Oak­land when they take on the Golden State War­riors.

This time around the Rap­tors come in at a rest dis­ad­van­tage, though not quite as ac­cel­er­ated as the one with which the Clip­pers were deal­ing.

The War­riors have not played since Mon­day, when they won a home game over Min­nesota. The Rap­tors will be play­ing their sixth of 12 back-to-backs this year de­spite be­ing just over a third of the way through the sched­ule.

Again, the sit­u­a­tions aren’t iden­ti­cal. Not only did the Rap­tors not have to en­dure over­time, they were ba­si­cally in garbage time by the be­gin­ning of the fourth quar­ter, mean­ing coach Nick Nurse could start emp­ty­ing his bench and save his starters some un­nec­es­sary wear and tear.

Still, deal­ing with the War­riors, even on equal rest, is not an easy feat and un­like the first meet­ing be­tween these clubs won by Toronto a cou­ple of weeks ago the War­riors this time will have both Steph Curry and Dray­mond Green in the lineup, two huge ab­sences in the first tilt.

On the plus side of the ledger, the win over the Clip­pers seemed to cure a lot of the Rap­tors’ ails, chief among them the end to the short-term funk in which Lowry had been mired.

It wasn’t just that Lowry wasn’t scor­ing in the pre­vi­ous five games, it was like he for­got how to at­tack, a key part of his game. He was back to his old form Tues­day in Los An­ge­les, driv­ing to the rim, drain­ing threes and gen­er­ally be­ing the all-around pro­ducer that he has been for the ma­jor­ity of his time in a Rap­tors uni­form.

“I kind of felt he would have a good game when I saw him do that lit­tle shimmy two-footer un­der the rim that he hasn’t done for a while,” Nurse said of one of Lowry’s early buck­ets. “He takes it in there and ev­ery­one is around and next thing you know he is putting one up over here and it’s in, one of those at-therim shots for him. He did a lit­tle bit of every­thing. The stroke looked like when he let it go tonight he knew it was go­ing in, so that was good to see again.”

Or as Lowry put it af­ter the game, “it was just time, it was time for me to step up and play.”

With­out Kawhi Leonard to lean on, out with a sore hip cour­tesy of a fall in Sun­day’s game, it wasn’t just good to see, it was very much needed.

Leonard was ex­pected to be a game-time de­ci­sion Wednes­day in Oak­land. With­out him in the lineup, Toronto’s chances of snap­ping a team-worst 13-game los­ing streak in the Bay Area would take an­other hit. And it would be a real shame if the bas­ket­ball world were de­prived of an­other clas­sic Kevin Du­ran­tLeonard head-to-head matchup.

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