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Clippers cruise to big win in Toronto, 127-107

© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Clippers start off long "Grammy" trip with a big win behind James Harden's first Clipper triple double

TORONTO – The first game of the “Grammy’s trip” for the Clippers was a successful one. With the start of a long road trip, and on the cusp of a back-to-back, it was clear this team needed to put this one away and get as much rest as possible. They did just that, as James Harden tallied his first triple-double, Paul George poured in 21, and the spark plug himself, Russell Westbrook, scored 20 off the bench. The Clippers didn’t even need a huge Kawhi Leonard game, as he only scored 16 points and got rest down the stretch en route to a smooth victory over the Raptors. 

The Clippers are now 29-14 and the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.

Here are my three takeaways:

Harden got his 75th career triple double and the first in his Clippers tenure on Friday against the Raptors, and was in command from the jump. His final line was 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists with only one turnover. This game is one of the big reasons why the Clippers went out and acquired James Harden, as the team was on the first night of a back-to-back amidst a long road trip and just needed somebody to take the burden off of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. 

Even without Ivica Zubac, Harden is finding his teammates with ease, pushing the pace when needed, and scoring in bunches when the defense calls for it. Like I mentioned earlier, Kawhi Leonard did not even need to play in the later half of the fourth quarter due to the command and poise of Harden, Westbrook, and Powell. So yes, you could say that the “system” is working incredibly well. 

In these long road trips you are going to need players to step up even more so than when at home. With a back-to-back coming up against the Boston Celtics, who are the best team in the NBA, Paul George (who was nursing a sore groin coming in) and Russell Westbrook carried the offense and looked like they did in their Oklahoma City Thunder days. Of course James Harden was the de facto player of the game, but George had 21 on a day where it didn’t look like he was even going to play, and Westbrook was everywhere on offense and on defense off of the bench. 

According to SI Now’s Joey Linn, Westbrook is averaging 19.6 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and a whopping 57% from three point range. If we are being honest, this is close to the type of statline that he was averaging in the playoffs in 2023, so if he can continue to provide energy, hustle, and efficiency off the bench, this team will be even more dangerous as a whole. 

After notching a clutch win in Toronto, the Clippers now face two very tough contests in back-to-back matchups with the Celtics and Cavaliers. If you can remember back to the middle of December, the Clippers got absolutely crushed by a Celtics team that was missing Kristaps Porzingis and a Clipper squad that was without Kawhi Leonard. It does look like Porzingis will miss this one as well with an ankle sprain and head coach Ty Lue said after the Raptors win, that he will see if everyone will be available for the second half of the back-to-back in Boston. 

After these two very tough games against two great opponents, the road trip does get a bit easier in terms of strength of schedule, however anything on the road is difficult. You take things like fatigue, jet lag, and the lack of a home crowd for an extended period of time into account during these types of trips. I fully expect this team to drop a game here and there, but coach Lue mentioned that he will remain vocal about keeping the team locked in no matter what opponent there is and what type of trip it is as well. This should be a real test for a Clippers team that is firing on all cylinders right now. 

The Clippers will now get through customs and fly to Boston on Saturday to take on the vaunted Boston Celtics. Tipoff is set for 4:00 PM PST.