After suffering their first home loss in nearly two months Thursday, the Toronto Raptors (38-16) bounced back in a major way with a 121-103 win over the visiting LA Clippers (29-25), who become the seventh Western Conference team that the Raptors have swept this season.
Led by 18 points from Kawhi Leonard and a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double from Serge Ibaka, Toronto led by as many as 23 points on the night as it got a big home win before embarking on a three-game road trip this upcoming week.
Here are five takeaways from the game…
The Rest Factor
The Clippers, who completed a historic comeback in their 10-point victory over the Pistons Saturday, clearly did not have enough in the tank this afternoon. In the second game of a six-game road trip, a tired Los Angeles team was outscored 98-80 in the final three quarters after ending the first frame tied at 23.
Conversely, it was just the second game in seven days for the Raptors, who have had plenty of rest this week after playing one of the league's most gruelling schedules early on. Rest will again come into play for the Raptors, who did not have one player play more than 27 minutes tonight before beginning a three-game road trip.
Transition scoring wasn't too big a factor - Toronto outscored LA 14-8 - but the Clippers failed to reach their season averages with their shooting splits, which appears to be a product of tired legs and good defence from the Raptors. LA shot an abysmal 2-for-12 from 3-point range (16.7 percent), while Toronto shot a slightly better 9-for-33 (27.3 percent).
Another big fatigue-related factor was evident in the…
Battle of the Boards
Led by 12 rebounds from centre Serge Ibaka, Toronto outrebounded LA 56-36 on the night. The Raptors' 56 boards are the highest total the team has recorded in regulation this season.
Defence and rebounding are major keys to success, so it should come as no surprise that the Raptors are now 21-3 on the season when outrebounding their opponent. Rebounding is more than just a skill - it's a mentality, and it's evident in the numbers.
After Ibaka, eight different Raptors recorded four or more rebounds, signifying gang rebounding and an aggressive mindset. Kawhi Leonard is averaging a career-high 7.9 rebounds this season and has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 12 of the 40 games he's appeared in.
In a rookie class that contains plenty of star power, Canada's own Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to prove time and time again that he is destined for stardom as well.
In his first game in Canada since his sophomore year of high school, the Hamilton native finished the night with 19 points (on 9-for-15 shooting), five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26 minutes of action, scoring in a myriad of impressive ways. Gilgeous-Alexander got to the rim, stopped and popped on the break and continues to improve as time goes on in his rookie season.
All of that, and he's only 20-years-old.
As Gilgeous-Alexander continues to get stronger and have an increased feel for the NBA game, things will continue to come easier for him and nights like these will be the norm. The Clippers got their point guard of the future and then some when they selected him in the 2018 draft and he will be an All-Star in the near future.
Reserves Step Up
With two-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams serving as a member of the Clippers' bench unit, contributions for reserves were going to be a major key in tonight's game. In the first quarter, Toronto's reserves failed to get on the board, allowing LA back in the game as it closed the frame on a 12-0 run to tie things up.
The bench unit answered the call as soon as the second frame began. A C.J. Miles 3-pointer got things going for the Raptors, who used the momentum set by their bench contributors to get out to a double-digit lead by the half.
Miles finished the night with 15 points (on 4-for-6 shooting from the field) to lead the second unit and Delon Wright wasn't far behind with 14 points on the night. Toronto's bench outscored LA's bench unit 59-45.
It should not go unmentioned that reserves such as Patrick McCaw, Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd contributed down the stretch as they maintained the Raptors big lead, which is an important factor in earning wins.