Los Angeles Clippers vs. Toronto Raptors
February 7, 2014
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Was Kyle Lowry the Eastern Conference’s biggest All-Star snub?
James Herbert, SB Nation, (@outsidethenba): Yes, by miles and miles and miles. Dude should have been a starter, if we’re being real here. That was obviously never going to happen, though, and no one covering the team was terribly surprised when he didn’t make it as a reserve. Lowry’s been the biggest reason for Toronto’s success, but opposing head coaches weren’t inclined to vote for two Raptors and DeMar DeRozan has a higher scoring average and a well-deserved reputation as a great teammate and hard worker. Lowry’s earned rave reviews both on and off the court this season, but it takes a while for perceptions to change in this league. And speaking of perceptions, an All-Star appearance may have driven Lowry’s value up. The franchise is probably pleased with how this shook out – if Lowry is going to re-sign in Toronto, Masai Ujiri would rather not pay a premium.
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic, (@BlakeMurphyODC): Yes, definitely. He’s been the best point guard in the East so far this season. I wrote about it at length at the time, but in short, there aren’t many ways to slice it whereby he’s not deserving. He doesn’t score as much as some others but does so more efficiently and with a small usage rate; advanced statistics love him; he’s either the most or second-most important cog in the surprisingly seventh-ranked defense. KLOE.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Yes. Even more so than Lance Stephenson. All that said, it’s probably not a coincidence that the two players who the coaches snubbed “more” than anyone else in the East are ones who have reputations of not exactly exuding coachability.
2. The Raptors will finish over/under the 3.5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Herbert: I’ll say the Raptors will be the third seed, but they’re in a precarious position. An injury to Lowry swiftly sinks the ship, and it’d be rocky if they lost any one of their rotation players for an extended period. For a team projected to finish with home court advantage, Toronto is dangerously shallow. As an example, big man Amir Johnson hasn’t been himself recently and it has greatly reduced Toronto’s room for error. If the Raptors manage to stay healthy, I can confidently call them better than Washington, Atlanta and the like.
Murphy: Wait, does over mean higher or lower? In any case, I think they’ll finish third. The Hawks have admirably stayed afloat without Al Horford but have done so against a slightly easier schedule and with a much less convincing victory margin, the Wizards are still figuring things out on offense, Gar Forman is going to kneecap Joakim Noah and the Nets, while better of late, have a gap to make up. Basically, I believe the Raptors are a 45-win team and can’t say that about anyone else.
Katz: Over. Or under. Or whichever one means Toronto will finish No. 3 in the East. The Hawks are probably the biggest challenge to Toronto’s three-seed hopes, even without Al Horford, but we may see them fall off at some point in the near future considering they have been weaker without their best player. Washington, meanwhile, can’t get away from lingering around .500, and the Nets (even with their hot January) might be in too big a hole to climb back into the No. 3 seed picture. Toronto is probably the safest choice.
3. True or false: Even if moral victories don’t exist, the Clippers’ 116-112 Wednesday-night loss to Miami was a moral victory.
Herbert: Wait, wait, wait, how can you tell me moral victories don’t exist and then ask me if that was a moral victory? This feels like a trick, but I reject your theory that moral victories don’t exist! They do, and this was one. Any game in which Blake Griffin can more than hold his own against LeBron James is a victory for Blake Griffin. It’s fun watching him play like an MVP candidate, and the fact that he had the Clippers going toe-to-toe with Miami without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick is extremely encouraging. The Clippers are starting to feel like legitimate contenders again, and Griffin is a genuine goddamn superstar.
Murphy: It absolutely was. They had no Chris Paul and no J.J. Redick and lost to the champs by four. Blake Griffin continued his I’m-Not-Just-A-Dunker Tour with perhaps the best game of his career. It was about as impressive as losses come. Plus, as a Raptors fan, I’m contractually obligated to believe in moral victories.
Katz: Yes, yes, yes. It was a moral victory. Actually, it was more than that. It was something to build on. It was maybe the best game of Blake Griffin’s career. And he did it completely on his own on a national stage. No Chris Paul. No J.J. Redick. The Clippers are starting to look like contenders, and – at least from an evaluative standpoint – the loss to Miami may have been the best proof of that from anything this season.