June 22, 2024

Raptors keep it close against Kawhi and Clippers despite missing Siakam

The absence of Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl to injuries threw Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic’s rotations out of whack in loss to Clippers.

LOS ANGELES—Thad Young started again and was out there dunking. Jontay Porter was knocking down smooth three-pointers from above the arc. And Garrett Temple played first-quarter minutes in a Raptors game for the first time since who knows when.

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam out against Clippers with back spasms –  Brandon Sun

The team’s starting frontcourt was in street clothes against the Clippers and the lingering disappointment of one night earlier had to be somewhere in their heads as they finished a difficult back-to-back set here Wednesday night.

And they played, they played hard, they played together and maybe they didn’t win but maybe in some small way they did.

There is no shame in an under-manned roster losing 126-120 to a near-championship calibre Clippers team to wrap up a two-night stand at the Crypto.com Arena.

“I thought that we really competed against a really good team,” said coach Darko Rajakovic, who was still awaiting word of any disciplinary measures for his vitriolic post-game tirade about the officiating crew following Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. “Our guys gave 110 per cent of their abilities today and we stayed in the game all the way to the end.”

The absence of Pascal Siakam, who woke up with back spasms after hitting the court hard in a Tuesday fall, and Jakob Poeltl, who missed the second of what will be many games because of a sprained ankle, threw Rajakovic’s rotations entirely out of whack.

Young, who had played about 35 minutes total in the first 36 games of the season before playing 28 on Tuesday, ate another 23 as a starter against the Clippers.

Young has now played more in two nights than he did in the 50 previous games combined.

“I give a lot of credit to Thad staying in great shape during the whole season,” Rajakovic said before the game. “Our (off-day) play groups and playing live five-on-five every game day really kept him ready for this moment. We don’t have concern for his availability and playing minutes tonight.”

Jakob Poeltl trade could turn into disaster for Raptors | Yardbarker

Young finished with eight points and a couple of rebounds while tussling with 7-footers Ivica Zubac and Daniel Theis.

Temple, who had played 23 minutes this season, played nearly nine on Wednesday, while Porter had career highs of nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes.

“I just think that he’s all around good player. He’s got good court vision, I think he’s really good three-point shooter and defensively he’s actually doing better than I expected,” Rajakovic said. “He’s really proving he belongs in this league.”

Despite those bit players playing big roles, the Raptors stayed with the talented Clippers all night and were within three with a minute to go. A Paul George three-pointer off a Kawhi Leonard pass was the dagger.

“A couple of missed opportunities, got to do a better job with rotations to take away some layups and couple of opportunities for us where we created easy shots around the rim that didn’t go our way,” Rajakovic said. “I thought we did a really good job today competing from the very start of the game.”

RJ Barrett finished with 25 points, Immanuel Quickley dropped 24 and Dennis Schroder had 22 for the Raptors.

Leonard signed a three-year, $152-million US extension earlier Wednesday and then scorched his old team for 29 points with seven assists.

“He’s very strong and he knows how to get to his spots really well,” Scottie Barnes said of Leonard. “He’s very efficient with every move he does, so just being able to get right to the spot, not wasting a lot of dribbles, trying to find a mismatch and attack that from there.”

The Raptors complete their six-game road trip in Utah on Friday.

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