The Raptors shall be an essential (and engaging) check for the Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers don’t have a ton of attention-grabbing video games this month. That’s partially as a result of they aren’t taking part in very many good groups, with solely 4 of their first 10 video games coming towards organizations that made the playoffs final yr amidst a light-weight opening schedule general. A kind of playoff groups is the Defending Champion Toronto Raptors™️.
Nonetheless, whereas this model of the roster should be strolling round, the Raptors that gained the 2019 title are extinct, snuffed out by the meteoric affect of Kawhi Leonard’s free company departure (and to a lesser extent, the exodus of now-Lakers guard Danny Inexperienced).
However not like the precise dinosaurs — who went out gentle IMO — these Raptors are nonetheless not simply respiration, however presenting an actual risk to the remainder of the NBA panorama. Each the Lakers and Raptors play one last sport on Friday night time earlier than going through one another on Sunday, however heading into these matchups, the Lakers (6-1) and Raptors (5-2) each have among the many league’s higher information, however have performed it in several methods, one in every of a number of causes that Toronto shall be perhaps essentially the most attention-grabbing barometer for the Lakers on this early slate.
The Raptors have survived Leonard and Inexperienced’s departures to submit a top-10 offense up to now, scoring 108.Eight factors per 100 possessions whereas taking pictures 39.8% on threes, marks that rank ninth and second within the league, respectively, heading into Friday. The group has compensated for its free company losses (partially) by firing means from deep, as 37% of the Raptor’s offense has come on threes in that time-frame, with solely the Rockets, Bucks and Pelicans having extra of their scoring come from behind the arc.
That energy runs proper up towards the Lakers’ personal abilities, as L.A. has the most effective protection within the league heading into Friday, permitting simply 97.9 factors per 100 possessions. And regardless of the group’s emphasis on defending the rim, the Lakers are additionally among the many greatest within the league in each the quantity of threes they permit their opponents to take (simply 35.9%) and make (32.1%). Each of these marks rank within the top-10 within the league defensively as of Friday.
All of this units up an attention-grabbing stylistic dichotomy, with the proverbial unstoppable drive assembly a corresponding immovable object. Will the Lakers have the ability to shut down a group that hunts threes as relentlessly because the Raptors? Will the Raptors have the ability to keep away from the temptation to take the sorts of pictures the Lakers attempt to bait them in to? All of will probably be fascinating to search for.
There are nonetheless mitigating components right here, after all, as a result of your entire Lakers’ early season schedule is full of flawed groups. Will Anthony Davis have the ability to bottle up rising star Pascal Siakam and actually gum up the works for Toronto? Will LeBron James proceed to remind us of his unofficial possession of the Raptors, and why for a short whereas Toronto was maybe higher often known as LeBronto? Will L.A. Nightlife stay undefeated on Sunday after the Raptors keep in Los Angeles on Saturday night time? Any mixture of those occasions, or any one in every of them individually would make this sport rather a lot much less attention-grabbing in the event that they occur.
Nonetheless, nothing is assured for L.A., as a result of the Lakers have performed with their meals loads this yr, narrowly escaping a number of video games that ought to have been losses with victories by ripping off unbelievable runs. The Raptors are too well-coached and sensible for such a technique to be counted on right here. Will L.A. notice that and care for enterprise from the soar? Determining if they’ve that mode in them is but another excuse this contest is value watching.
All in all, that is simply essentially the most intriguing dwelling sport in November on paper now that the Golden State Warriors are tanking, so should you’re trying to get out to Staples Heart this month, there are rather a lot worse methods to spend a Sunday than watching the Lakers get examined by one other playoff group as this roster continues to gel. In case you’d like to purchase tickets to the sport towards the Raptors, you are able to do so from StubHub right here.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks.
For extra Lakers speak, subscribe to the Silver Display screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.