RAPTORS BLOG: Kawhi Leonard is 13-2 against Toronto, plus more on VanVleet’s comments
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The difference between the Raptors, who faced some tough referees in Denver and again in Los Angeles, was that Toronto deserved a better fate against the Nuggets, but not the Clippers. The Raptors were the better team for most of the game against Denver and could have walked away with a win. Against the Clippers, the guests were clearly the second best team on the court.
And the final score probably even flattered the Raptors. The Clippers had just six three-pointers, the team’s third-worst performance from the deep this season, and hit a season-low this year for an opponent facing the Raptors. And the Raptors shot 41% from deep, the fourth-highest percentage since Jan. 1. Flip them over and that would have been a blowout.
Kawhi Leonard appeared to be on a mission. Leonard appears to have recovered from his various injuries and the Clippers, even after the odd signing of Russell Westbrook and even with a so-so record, will be a team no one wants to face in the playoffs.
That’s probably not the case with the Raptors. While they looked great on Jakob Poeltl’s arrival and were happy to bring OG Anunoby back into the lineup, the offense doesn’t look anywhere near good enough to win a series. I would definitely back them in a play-in against Washington, Chicago or Indiana and probably Atlanta or Miami, but would they win more than one game against Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia or Cleveland?
It’s too bad there’s no real route to a series against New York or Brooklyn, both would be choices for me and I’d probably prefer Toronto to Brooklyn.
AROUND THE RIM
Leonard is now 6-0 against the Raptors since leaving for Los Angeles. He’s averaged just 17.8 points in those games, but he’s also averaged 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals, and shot 91% from the free throw line and 47.1% from the field in those games (despite shooting 2-for- shot 11 for 12 points). his first game as Clipper against Toronto). Leonard is a remarkable 13-2 all-time against the Raptors and hasn’t lost a game against them since December 2015.
If you were wondering, LeBron James is 42-16 against the Raptors (in the regular season), Kevin Durant is 20-8, Stephen Curry is 18-3, Chris Bosh went 12-2 against his former team and Kobe Bryant went 24-9 against them.
Anything I say about the position is good for Fred VanVleet because he spoke his mind and is willing to take the punishment for it. A handful of referees seem to think they’re the show, that people are coming to see them, gesturing and hamming for the cameras and making weird phone calls. Yes, it must be annoying as hell that some players are constantly complaining about every single call or non-call (we see you, Luka Doncic). But officials make good money naming games and can’t throw a player out for a technical foul when a game is still pending (like that against Scottie Barnes in Denver), or November’s incredibly bad against VanVleet for an easy one Throw ball against the support. The Clippers played harder than the Raptors, but did they deserve more than twice as many free throw attempts? Did VanVleet earn their technique in the third quarter? No and yes would be my answer.
VanVleet refreshingly tells it as he sees it and isn’t afraid to speak his mind thoughtfully. With so much nonsense in the world, even in the sports media, VanVleet is a throwback. We need more people like him.
Congratulations to VanVleet on overtaking DeMar DeRozan, another great fortune teller of all time who happens to be one of VanVleet’s mentors, by a raptor in career. VanVleet is now behind only Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon. He will also overtake Vince Carter as a Raptor in the next week or two (behind Lowry, Doug Christie, DeRozan and Morris Peterson). In an interesting quirk, VanVleet has now played 403 games as Raptor, as has Vince Carter.
Later this season: VanVleet should move into the top 10 in games played as Raptor, now overtaking commentator Alvin Williams, and Pascal Siakam should move up to sixth place, overtaking Jonas Valanciunas.
THREE STARS VS. CUTTER
3 Paul George
: OG Anunoby, Ivaca Zubac, Terrence Mann
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