Toronto Star

Raptor win impresses Clippers


LOS ANGELES— They can strike seemingly out of nowhere — a three-pointer here, another one seconds later, a stop and a bucket in transition, another stop, another three, another stop, another score — and all of a sudden a so-so game turns excellent.

It might be Kyle Lowry. It might be Lou Williams. It might be Greivis Vasquez. It might be a total team effort.

Sometimes it’s all of them in succession and a game is stolen out of nowhere.

With a handful of what are becoming trademark spurts, the Raptors went on a second-half tear at the Staples Center on Saturday afternoon, exploding quickly and decisively to ultimately subdue the Los Angeles Clippers 110-98 to begin an arduous five-game western road swing.

As has happened so many times already this season, the Raptors got rapid, effective shooting when they needed it most. Lowry had a blitz early in the third quarter, Vasquez salvaged his day early in the fourth, and Williams basically put the game away with a couple of three-pointers with about five minutes to go.

It was sudden, effective and entirely what the Raptors do.

“When one of the guys on their team got going offensivel­y, they kept feeding him the ball,” said an impressed Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “I thought they did a great job of that. They kept finding Kyle when he had it going. They did the same with Greivis and Lou.

“They keep moving the ball. They are a very hard team to guard.”

With so many weapons — and still without the offensive prowess of the injured DeMar DeRozan — the Raptors have a way of grinding teams into submission. They may go through stretches where things aren’t going smoothly at either end, but ultimately they have an abundance of talent and a collective free spirit that keeps them going.

“You want to go out there and do your best for your teammates, and we have a group of guys that really care about each other and want our team to be successful,” said Lowry, who finished with 25 points and seven assists. “We don’t care who is being successful, as long as our team is being successful.”

That success tends to come from a quick-strike offence set up by improved defence. In the first half Saturday, Toronto let the Clippers get to the free-throw line 14 times. In the second half, Los Angeles shot just one free throw — and that came on a Lowry technical foul.

“We played defence without fouling. That’s the No. 1thing,” said coach Dwane Casey. “We dug in. I told them it can’t be a pretty game. We’re not going to win a pretty game. So we had to come in and get grimy, gritty, hit first and do it without fouling.”

Jonas Valanciuna­s, playing against an imposing Clippers front court, had an excellent afternoon with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Vasquez finished with 16 points and Williams had 10.

“They made a lot of big shots,” said Chris Paul of the Clippers. “A lot of timely shots, and that’s why they lead the East. You see how free they play. That team is playing with a lot of confidence. They are playing very free. They are really good.”

Most important, the Raptors took away much of what the Clippers do best. Blake Griffin got loose for 22 points and J.J. Redick had 23, but Paul had a 3-for-12 shooting night and just 10 points while DeAndre Jordan scored only four.

And even though Griffin scored, he needed 20 shots to get his 22 points and was a non-factor in the paint. He played nearly 19 minutes of the second half without a free throw or rebound.

“You don’t stop a guy individual­ly like that. . . . We crowded, we kept the paint tight . . . we brought bodies in once he started spinning. I think that was big for us, and in the second half we did it without fouling,” said Casey.

“I think that’s a big key. You force tough shots. If he makes them, you shake his hand and we go to the other end. We forced some tough shots in the second half, made him shoot over length and arms.”

 ??  ?? Kyle Lowry sparked Raptor offence with 25 points and seven assits in L.A.
Kyle Lowry sparked Raptor offence with 25 points and seven assits in L.A.

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