Welcome back, Kawhi. After helping the Toronto Raptors win the NBA title in his lone season with the team, Kawhi Leonard now returns as a visitor for the first time since when the LA Clippers take on the defending champions on Wednesday night.
This is a good chance for Leonard to show the Raptors what he can still do while reminiscing with some old friends along the way. He is no longer playing with Danny Green but now has Paul George as his starting 2-guard. The two of them have not appeared in every game but have helped lead the Clippers to an 18-7 beginning.
Toronto, on the other hand, has surprised many folks with its 16-7 start. The Raptors lost Leonard and Green in free agency, then lost Kyle Lowry eight games into the year for three weeks, along with Serge Ibaka. But the Raptors just continued to win, and if they lost, it was still a hard-fought effort. Now though, they have to deal with the loss of Fred VanVleet, one they may have a significantly hard time overcoming. He can play both guard spots and defend both, too, doing all things well.
The spread for Wednesday night’s game favors the visiting Clippers by 1.5 points. The moneyline on Los Angeles is -120, while it’s +102 for Toronto.
Clippers Look For Road Win
The Clippers are yet to play a single game at full strength, but the wins have continued to pile up anyway. Landry Shamet has missed several games, while Leonard and George have gone in and out of the lineup. JaMychal Green missed the team’s last game, while Rodney McGruder was out with a hamstring injury. But Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell have continued to be far-and-away the best bench duo in the league, helping the Clippers get it done. Ivica Zubac has been solid as the starting big man, with Harrell backing him up and playing far more minutes. The Clippers are yet to find their go-to closing lineup of five guys, needing one more guy to consistently play with George, Leonard, Williams and Harrell.
In his return to Toronto, Leonard should receive nothing but cheers and good-natured chants. Any fan who boos should be escorted out of the arena.
Toronto Moving On
Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA Finals trip and eventual title a year ago, and now the goal on this night will be to take him down. The video tribute that was created looks fantastic and may get a rare Leonard tear. Anyway, if they don’t have VanVleet playing in this one, Lowry is going to have to seriously step up, Norman Powell had to fill in and start for Lowry for several games, and now he might be playing next to him. Pascal Siakam looks like an All-Star and an All-NBA-level performer, while OG Anunoby is looking comfortable as a starter again.
This will be a tough game for the Raptors, but they will come prepared. When the game begins, Anunoby will have to be all over Leonard, with Powell or VanVleet locking up George.
Kawhi Wins His Homecoming
This will be a tough loss for Toronto, but not a shocking one. It will be a close game, but the Clippers get the win.
Free Play: LAC -1.5
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