Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard won the Finals MVP award in June while leading the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history. Today he will make his first return to Toronto with his new team as his 18-7 Clippers match up against the 16-7 Raptors (7pm ET Wednesday on ESPN).
The first head-to-head matchup between these teams was a month ago, when the Clippers won 98-88 in Los Angeles, but that was essentially a throwaway game with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka out for the Raptors and Paul George out for the Clippers.
Ahead of our Los Angeles Clippers vs Toronto Raptors predictions, we will take a close look at his game and delve into the factors that might influence the outcome.
Will Kawhi Leonard Continue Lackluster Play Against Former Teams?
The Clippers’ Leonard is a fantastic player who should not be underestimated when he is playing his best. We saw that the past spring when he willed the Toronto Raptors to an NBA championship with an all-time great individual playoff run.
That said, Kawhi has struggled with nagging injuries in the last few years and often doesn’t push things too hard in games that don’t matter to him. In the past, he often hasn’t gotten up the motivation to play his best basketball against his former teams. In the past two seasons he has played his former team five times and he’s averaged just 23 points and four turnovers per game on a poor 49 true-shooting percentage in those contests. He shot just 2-of-11 from the field with nine turnovers in the first Raptors-Clippers game this season.
Will this game matter to him? Maybe. If it does, the Clippers will have a great opportunity to pull this one out.
Will Pascal Siakam’s On-and-Off-Shooting Stroke Continue its Pattern?
There are a couple of disturbing trends behind Siakam’s season, which has still been strong overall. First overall, his scoring efficiency and volume have gradually declined since a hot start to the year. Second, his shooting stroke seems to betray him against strong defenses.
Since the beginning of November, Siakam is a respectable 40-of-116 (34.5 percent) from downtown. What that stat doesn’t tell you is that he is just 8-of-43 (18.6 percent) from three-point range against top-10 defensive teams and 32-of-73 (43.8 percent) against all other teams.
Siakam has been tasked with being the No. 1 option on this Raptors team and he has done a solid job overall. However, he may be a little bit overworked when he is playing squads that make him work harder to get his points.
In this game, look for Siakam to try to get more shots in the flow of the offense rather than forcing shots that aren’t there for him. If he does that, his outside stroke and overall efficiency should be good.
Who Will Win Matchup Between Mo Harkless and OG Anunoby?
The Raptors and Clippers have starters on both of their teams with somewhat similar games. Harkless for the Clippers and Anunoby for the Raptors are both combo forwards who are very versatile defensively, will help their team’s rebounding cause and will score the occasional basket on a spot-up three-pointer or cut. Anunoby is more skilled offensively, but there are still some similarities.
While Harkless and Anunoby won’t likely be matched up against each other, they will both play similarly key roles for their squads as defensive-minded role players who can cover pretty much any opponent they switch onto.
One key in this game will be which guy can disrupt the game more with his defense and stay more involved in the offense with efficient contributions.
Our Betting Preview’s LA Clippers vs Toronto Raptors Predictions & Picks Verdict
I think the Raptors will be much more motivated to win this game. While Kawhi Leonard left the team on good terms, the fans will root hard and the team will play hard to prove that Leonard may have made a mistake to leave the team in free agency.
Toronto will also see this as a key game on its schedule after a rough stretch of play that would be four losses in five games if they lose today. For the Clippers, this may feel more like any other game. So the LA Clippers vs Toronto Raptors predictions for this preview are:
- The Clippers are the 2.5-point favorites with all the biggest offshore sports betting websites for Americans. USAbetting believes that the right move is to put your money on Toronto +2.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
- Both teams have been inconsistent on offense as of late and I see them as better on the defensive end anyway. Bet under 222.5 total points @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or Intertops.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.