The visiting Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers will meet for the first time this season on Tuesday night, but the players on these teams know each other well.
It is almost like a reunion of the 2019 Raptors NBA championship team. Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, who were key members of that team, are with the Clippers.
Holdovers from that team such as Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet still make the Raptors go.
Patrick Patterson of the Clippers also played for the Raptors from 2013 to 2017.
Toronto (27-38) will be going for a split of its four-game Western swing after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 121-114 Sunday night.
The Clippers (43-22) have dropped three straight, including a 110-104 home loss Saturday to the Denver Nuggets.
Lowry had a big night for the Raptors against the Lakers, matching his career-best for 3-pointers in going 8-for-13 from long range. He finished with a season-best 37 points and added 11 assists while committing only one turnover in nearly 41 minutes.
Siakam had a season-best 39 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. VanVleet did not play, resting an ailing hip that has cost him eight games.
While the Clippers have clinched a playoff spot, the Raptors are still hoping to reach the postseason and they intend to have fun in the attempt.
That was Lowry’s message to his teammates on Sunday as they avoided a fourth-quarter collapse that had been a problem for them.
“I said at halftime. …’No matter what happens in the rest of this game, let’s have fun,'” Lowry said. “And you know I think that’s one thing that we can always rally around each other is having fun.
“This game is a game of joy and fun, and when you’re having fun, things like that happen. We just went out there and we literally just have had fun. Everybody was just having fun and that was big.”
It was up to Lowry and Siakam to take over in the fourth quarter as the Lakers cut into what had been a 21-point lead.
“Obviously we know what’s happening and we talk about each other,” Siakam said. “And, then, coach (Nick Nurse) puts an emphasis on it, too. So, we’ve got to go out there and execute it in the fourth quarter.”
In the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets on Saturday, Leonard returned to the lineup after being out five games with a sore right foot. He had missed nine of the past 10 games.
“I’m feeling good,” Leonard said after scoring 16 points with six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes of action. “We took the proper steps to get me right and make sure nothing significant is wrong with me.”
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he liked what he saw.
“I don’t know if it was fatigue or what, I just thought he really eased into it,” Lue said. “I mean he didn’t play at his normal pace of attacking and getting to the basket like he usually does — that’s to be expected. But it’s just good to have him back.”
The focus for the Clippers is to return to full strength for the playoffs.
Ibaka (lower back tightness) has been out since March 15 but is back on the practice court. Patrick Beverley (fractured hand) could soon return for the first time since April 8.
“It’s going to take everybody to get to our ultimate goal,” Leonard said.