Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Wednesday's Essentials

Editor's Note: NBA Totals leader Antony Dinero (+1340) is on an 11-5 run on over/unders. Don't miss out on more NBA winners from him all season. Click to win!

Game of the Night - Clippers (-3/221.5) at Raptors, 7 p.m.

Raptors fans are great and there’s obviously a stereotype that Canadians are among the friendliest people on earth, but I would think they’re going to stop short of cheering whenever Kawhi Leonard touches the ball once the actual game starts.

C’mon, they’ll at least stop after the first quarter.

The 2019 Finals MVP is back in town for the first and only time this season since departing for his hometown after leading Toronto to its first NBA title. Returns are always mired by the certainty that the player coming back into town will have to deal with animosity, but that simply won’t be the case here. There should still be extra juice in the Air Canada Centre, so expect a great atmosphere and hopefully a game that lives up to it.

The pregame tribute video has already started making the rounds on social media and fans have been advised to arrive early, so make no mistake that this is going to be similar to Mike Conley returning to Memphis earlier this season or Leonard’s former teammate Tony Parker cycling back through San Antonio during his one season with the Hornets.

Leonard hasn’t beaten the Spurs at AT&T, where he has been booed whenever possible, averaging 20 points, four boards and six assists in a pair of lopsided losses. He fell once with the Raps and earlier this season in a Nov. 29 setback that snapped a seven-game Clippers’ win streak.

He’s 2-2 as a visitor in Toronto, although none of the times he came into Canada carried any special significance prior to him being acquired in a package highlighted by DeMar DeRozan in July of 2018. For what it’s worth, and I don’t think it’s much, Leonard is shooting 32 percent (11-for-34) as a visiting player at the Air Canada Centre. The Spurs went 2-2 in those games.

Leonard should be fresh after Monday’s helping of load maintenance. He spent the Clippers’ 110-99 victory over the Pacers cheering on Paul George as he dominated despite being booed by Indiana fans in his second trip back through town since being moved to Oklahoma City. L.A. improved to 2-1 on its current six-game road trip that ends with a back-to-back Friday and Saturday in Minnesota and Chicago.

Leonard and George are 7-2 as teammates this season despite limited practice time alongside one another. Both losses have come on the road by double-digits as both played poorly by their standards at the Spurs and Bucks. George had yet to debut when L.A. defeated Toronto at Staples 98-88 on Nov. 11. Despite shooting just 2-for-11, Leonard finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Clips used a 25-10 fourth-quarter to post a comeback win. The Raptors were without point guard Kyle Lowry and key reserve forward Serge Ibaka, while starting small forward OG Anunoby played just two minutes. Lou Williams led all scorers with 21 points.

The Clippers are looking to get to .500 on the road this season – they’re 13-1 at Staples Center – and are already 3.5 games behind the Lakers. Toronto is running third in an Atlantic Division where 1.5 games are separating it from the Celtics an 76ers, but there have been struggles of late. The Raptors struggled to hold off Chicago on Monday night in an ugly game, winning 93-92 to snap a season-worst three-game losing streak. They have failed to cover in any of their last four games, last doing so on Dec. 1.

This will be the first time the Raptors will play an underdog role at the Air Canada Centre all season. Toronto is 9-2 at home (8-3 ATS) but has dropped consecutive games to the Heat and Rockets by double-digits. L.A. is 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) as a road favorite.

Raps guard Fred VanVleet, who suffered a knee contusion during the losing streak and was dealing with some inflammation, missed the Bulls win but probably returns tonight unless the Raptors plan on being overly cautious.

Shooting guards Landry Shamet (ankle) and Rodney McGruder (hamstring) are close to returning but have been ruled out for this one. Reserve forward JaMychal Green is considered doubtful with a tailbone injury.

The number opened below 220 for the fifth time in games involving the Clippers. The 'under' is 4-0 in those games but people are banging the 'over' enough to where the number has climbed over 221. The 'under' is 6-0 in games involving L.A. that close at 222 or lower.

Best of the Rest

Celtics at Pacers (-2/210.5), 7:10 p.m. ET: Gordon Hayward returned for the Celtics on Monday and looked sharper than expected after a lengthy layoff after a broken hand by finishing 7-for-10 from the field. He's due for more minutes if Marcus Smart can't return from an eye infection, but the plan is for the standout defender to be out there. Domantas Sabonis comes off a 22-rebound game in the loss to the Clippers and point guard Malcolm Brogdon is back from his hand injury, but center Myles Turner has been shaky on offense despite providing his typical shot-blocking presence. The 'under' has prevailed in four straight games involving Indiana and three straight involving Boston.

Lakers (-7/213) at Magic, 7:10 p.m. ET: With Avery Bradley due back, the Lakers are set to be at full strength so long as fellow point guard Rajon Rondo returns from a hamstring issue. L.A. has won 11 straight true road games but is just 4-4 ATS in the favorite's role in opposing arenas. A win here would tie the franchise's second-longest road win streak, matching the '71-'72 version. The Magic are still without center Nikola Vucevic, who should miss his 10th straight game but is growing closer to a return. They're 8-4 at Amway Center but are just 1-3 as an underdog.

Thunder at Kings (-2), 10:10 p.m. ET: A victory would move the Thunder back to .500 for the first time as they've fought back from a 1-4 start and own a season-best three-game win streak, which include road conquests in Portland and Utah on their current four-game trip. OKC will be looking to hold an opponent under 100 points for the third straight game. Sacramento is hot too, coming off wins at Dallas and Houston in games that came down to the closing seconds. The Kings are searching for their first three-game win streak since last February and finally get back forward Marvin Bagley III, who will return after breaking his thumb in the season opener. It remains to be seen whether he'll start or come off the bench given the success Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes have had as a tandem.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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