An injury-plagued Los Angeles Clippers team outplayed the Toronto Raptors in a 96-91 victory at Staples Center on Monday, December 11. The Raptors were coming off of a six-game winning streak. With Blake Griffin (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (hip) still out, and Patrick Beverley (knee) out for the season, the Clippers knew their team was at a talent disadvantage, but made up for it with energy and effort.
”We scrapped, we played hard, we got the loose balls, we got the 50-50 game, we took charges, we created turnovers, got baskets,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ”That’s who we have to be right now, and our guys have bought into it.”
The Raptors floor general Kyle Lowry was rendered scoreless in the first half, while Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell (Griffin’s replacement) flipped a switch. He scored a season high of 15 points in the first half. At halftime, the Raptors were still leading 53-51. Toronto maintained the lead through the fourth quarter.
“We were playing in mud,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “Psychologically, we were a step behind.”
The Raptors were up 81-74 early in the fourth with consecutive baskets by Jonas Valanciunas. The Toronto big man proved to be an integral part of the Raptors offense. Valanciunas finished the game with 23 points and 15 rebounds, leading all scorers on his team.
“Our second group tries to bring a lot of energy and play as hard as we can,” Harrell said. ”We know we’re going to make some mistakes, we know we have some younger guys who aren’t accustomed to playing this amount of minutes. Everyone has that next man up mentality.”
The Clippers’ backups outscored Toronto’s reserves 50-17. They were led by Harrell and Lou Williams, who contributed 17 points respectively. The Clippers bench held their breath when Harrell went for a blocked shot in the fourth quarter and came down awkwardly. He immediately clinched his knee. Rivers was forced to call a timeout. Harrell was able to jog to the sideline and played the duration of the game.
“We got a break,” Rivers said. “I called him ‘Lazarus.’ He rose from the dead.”
Teodosic and Austin Rivers hit 3-pointers. Sam Dekker made a pair of free throws which tied the game at 82-all. The Clippers tied it again at 84-all as Dekker lobbed it to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk. Jordan added 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Clippers.
“After we lost that lead, we couldn’t get our traction back,” Casey said.
Milos Teodosic returned to the Clippers lineup after sitting out 22 games because of a plantar fascia injury in his left foot. He was without an assist in his first game back.
“He took command of the team and made them run sets,” Rivers said. “You won’t see that in the stats but I thought he was huge for us in his leadership.”
Milos Teodosic scored 12 points including a huge 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that extended the Clippers’ lead to 91-87. The Clippers then went on a 22-10 run to close the game.
“We kept a high-scoring team under 100 points. That’s pretty good, man,” Austin Rivers said of the Raptors, one of the league’s top scoring teams. “This is the biggest win for us. We kept playing and fighting.”
The 96-91 victory is the team’s second consecutive win, both at the hands of probable Eastern Conference playoff teams.