Raptors-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers' starters haven't always performed up to par recently.

It hasn't mattered thanks to their bench.

The surging Clippers seek their sixth straight win on Sunday at the expense of the Toronto Raptors, whom they've beaten 12 consecutive times.

Los Angeles (13-6) has assembled a group of skilled scorers that extends beyond its first five. During the Clippers' five-game win streak, the starters are averaging 62.0 points compared to 59.6 for the opponents' starters, and the team has totaled at least 100 in each game.

The big advantage comes from their reserves, who have averaged 48.2 points during this run and outscored their counterparts by 14.0 per game. That group again came through on Friday when Jamal Crawford scored 21 off the bench and the Clippers won 117-99 over Phoenix.

They couldn't build a lead of more than seven points until the fourth quarter, when the reserves keyed a 17-4 run to blow open the game.

Thirteen of Crawford's points came in the fourth and he hit all four of his free throws, extending his streak to 55 consecutive made free throws dating back to Nov. 3.

The Clippers' bench is averaging 40.7 points - one of the NBA's best marks.

"We owed them a lot," Blake Griffin said of the reserves. Griffin finished with 24 points and a career-high four steals.

"We want to put it away early, but with the way that our team is put together, our second team is just as capable of coming and putting that lead on teams."

More impressive is that Los Angeles' rotation isn't at full strength. Lamar Odom continues to get into shape, having recently lost 12 pounds. He tallied eight points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes of action on Friday.

Chauncey Billups has missed two straight games with an inflamed tendon in his left foot. He already missed the season's first 14 games because of the torn left Achilles he suffered on Feb. 6, and the Clippers are uncertain when he will return.

"It's frustrating, of course, working that hard to come back and have to kind of sit back and wait," Billups told the team's official website. "I know what it is. I respect the process and I'm not down at all."

The Raptors (4-16) have struggled all season, particularly on the road where they're 1-12. Their 131-99 loss at Utah on Friday was their third straight and ninth in 10 games.

The Clippers high-scoring attack (102.3 ppg) could give Toronto all sorts of problems. The Raptors are at the bottom of the league, giving up 103.6 ppg.

They allowed the Jazz to hit 13 of their 23 3-point attempts on Friday, and opponents are hitting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc.

"We gave in to the altitude or whatever it was," coach Dwane Casey said. "I thought we split apart and didn't stay together. Tonight is the first time I have seen us give in."

Los Angeles won last year's meeting, 103-91.

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