LOS ANGELES — The surging Toronto Raptors can extend their season-best winning streak to seven games when they face the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Monday.
The Clippers, meanwhile, will look to win back-to-back games for the first time in two weeks and prove to themselves they can have some success without All-Star Blake Griffin.
When the Raptors (17-7) defeated the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, their current six-game win streak matched their best from last season. It is also the longest winning streak for the Raptors since they won 11 consecutive during the 2015-16 season.
The 102-87 victory at Sacramento was relatively tame for the Raptors’ new up-tempo offense, but the club’s first afternoon start of the season could have been to blame. On Monday, Toronto will have to face the rigors of a second game in two days.
“(The new offense is) coming along well,” the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan said, according to the Toronto Star. “We’re getting more and more comfortable, ball movement is getting much better and guys getting more comfortable handling the ball, pushing the ball in transition. Now everybody’s getting a feel for the offense. That’s a good thing. And we’ve still got a long way to go.”
That’s not a good sign for a Clippers team that has struggled on defense without Griffin, likely out until the end of January with a sprained left knee. They also lost defensive-minded guard Patrick Beverley for the season to knee surgery.
After dropping four consecutive games following the Griffin injury, the Clippers were able to finish off a last-second victory Saturday afternoon over the Washington Wizards, 113-112, when Lou Williams hit a 30-foot 3-pointer with just over a second remaining. Williams finished with 35 points.
The Clippers did find a little more offense Sunday, as forward Danilo Gallinari improved in his second game back from a strained hip. Gallinari had 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting after struggling with his shot upon his return Thursday in a defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Clippers will consider it progress that they no longer are thinking about how to end a losing streak. They can now focus on how to build off success.
“When you’re struggling, it’s easier to lose one because you’re thinking about the struggle instead of thinking about winning,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said after the Saturday victory. “It helps when you come into a game thinking about winning the game instead of thinking about losing and what you’ve done in the past. I thought overall we had a pretty good mindset (Saturday).”
The Clippers will need more than positive thoughts playing against a Raptors offense that has averaged 117 points per game during the six-game win streak. DeRozan is not only coming off his first ever victory at Sacramento after nine years in the NBA, but he also is returning to his hometown of Los Angeles for the Monday game.
The Raptors have won the first two games of their four-game West Conference road swing, and Dwayne Casey has his 500th game as Toronto head coach under his belt. Casey joked to reporters postgame that the milestone only means that he is “old.”
Toronto has listed guard Kyle Lowrey as “probable” for Monday due to an ankle injury. Center Lucas Nogueira (calf) and guard Delon Wright (shoulder) remain out indefinitely.
While the Clippers will be without Beverley and Griffin, guard Milos Teodosic (plantar fasciitis) was upgraded to “questionable.” Rivers said that if Teodosic does not return Monday, the guard should be back for the Wednesday game at Orlando.
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