The Toronto Raptors welcome back Kawhi Leonard to Scotiabank Arena on Friday night as the Los Angeles Clippers look to extend their three-game winning streak while the hosts want to end their own three-game losing skid.
The Clippers have emerged as one of the strongest sides in the Western Conference after finally adjusting to James Harden’s arrival from Philadelphia. Despite some early teething problems, the Clippers are now surging and they head to Toronto as heavy favourites.
Toronto, on the other hand, have been prolific sellers in the lead up to the NBA trade deadline and their recent results have reflected that.
|LA Clippers -8.0
|Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
|7:30 PM ET, Friday, January 26
|How to watch
|Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet+
Over 235.5 points (-110)
The speed of this Raptors transformation has been striking. Not only have key players left, but they’ve gone from a team that tower over the opposition at every position to looking undersized.
That’s even more true now that Jakob Poeltl is sidelined, with no true center to replace him.
That was the case when these two met in LA earlier this month, when they shared 246 points in a win for the Clippers.
Toronto really lack players who can guard the kind of wings that the Clippers will throw at them - multi-time All-Stars Leonard and Paul George - while their rebuild has seen the team become more offensively focused in recent weeks.
With the Raptors looking open defensively and creative going forward, 235.5 points is a mark these teams can beat on Friday.
RJ Barrett over 3.5 assists (+105)
Despite their struggles of late, the Raptors remain a side who are excellent when it comes to sharing the ball. In fact, their recent trades have pushed the team more towards where coach Darko Rajakovic wants to go.
Losing Immanuel Quickley for this contest is a blow to that style of play, especially as the Raptors lack some guard depth.
However, with Toronto evaluating their roster and their future, we could see RJ Barrett pushed into a more creative role as the team searches for internal improvement.
Barrett has already shown some growth in this regard. He went from averaging 2.4 assists per game in New York to 3.4 with the Raptors.
Given that they’ve lost Pascal Siakam’s creativity and they’re without Quickley for this one, I see Barrett tasked with more ballhandling, so he’s good value to hit at least four assists.
LA Clippers -10.5 (+125)
When you consider where these two teams are right now, this clash isn’t likely to be pretty for the Raptors.
LA are 28-14 and play in a deep Western Conference, having won six of their last seven. They beat the Lakers by 11 points in their last game and they should cover that margin in Toronto.
The Raptors have an alarming lack of quality defenders, especially against a team that has two All-NBA wing players.
Rajakovic lacks options to put up against Leonard and George, never mind Russell Westbrook and Harden in the backcourt as well as role players including Terance Mann and Norm Powell.
The Raptors have lost seven of their last eight and fell by eight points to an awful Memphis Grizzlies side at home in their last game.
With their coach comparing their run-in approach to preseason training camp ahead of this one, the contending Clippers can storm away with a win.
While they’re tempting at -8.0 on the spread, there’s extra value in adding another few points against the spiralling Raptors.
Jakob Poeltl, Center, Out (Ankle)
Immanuel Quickley, Guard, Out (Thigh bruise)
Markquis Nowell, Guard, Out (Hamstring strain)
Moussa Diabate, Forward, Out (fractured hand)
Ivica Zubac, Center, Out (calf strain)
The Clippers have won their last three meetings with the Raptors, claiming a 126-120 win in LA earlier this month.
Only 11 sides in the NBA concede fewer points in the paint per game than the Clippers this term. The Raptors rank 23rd in that metric ahead of this clash against a Clippers side which sits fifth in terms of field goal percentage this season.
|Toronto Raptors overall wins
|LA Clippers overall wins
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.