Not too long ago, the Los Angeles Lakers facing the Toronto Raptors would have been a heavyweight bout. Instead, LeBron James and company sit eight games out of a playoff spot in the west, with little chance of making the postseason. Nonetheless, whenever James and Kawhi Leonard share the court, it is a must-watch night in the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers
Those that argued LeBron James was leaving a better supporting cast behind in Cleveland, certainly feel validated right about now. Even with James back in the lineup, the Lakers have crumbled. The 31-36 squad is closer to 14th-place in the Western Conference than a postseason spot, currently. James has been his terrific self, averaging 27.3 PPG. That puts the future Hall of Famer fifth in the league’s scoring race. It would simply be another MVP-caliber season for James if Los Angeles could pull it together. But making a charge up the standings seems unlikely, and Los Angeles will have to make do without Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram on the floor tonight. The Lakers have lost five of six coming into tonight’s game. Tuesday’s 123-107 win over the Chicago Bulls showed LeBron at his best. His 36 points, four assists and 10 rebounds led the way for Los Angeles. The Lakers will need another performance like that to have any chance against the Raptors this evening.
Toronto is a heavy favorite tonight, given a ten-point edge at FanDuel. After dropping three of their past five games, the Raptors have fallen back a bit off the Milwaukee Bucks’ lead in the east. At 48-20, Toronto sits three games behind Milwaukee. The Bucks are off tonight, so Toronto has the chance to gain some ground in the conference race with a win. They’ll attempt to do so without Serge Ibaka, who is currently serving a three-game suspension for his role in an on-court scuffle Monday. The loss of Ibaka could really impact Toronto tonight. In the last meeting with the Lakers, it was Ibaka who led all Toronto scorers that night. Ibaka put up 34 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard was not on the floor that night, though. So, essentially, Toronto is looking at an Ibaka-for-Leonard trade in these contests; a deal most Raptors fans would make in a heartbeat.
It’s somewhat surprising to see this matchup receive the highest expected point total of the evening. The over/under has been set at 232.5 points. The Thunder-Pacers or Mavericks-Nuggets’ game could’ve easily received a higher projection than this Eastern Conference matchup. While Toronto’s offense has been very good this season, it is premature to classify it as elite. Toronto ranks eighth in scoring offense. Los Angeles, meanwhile, ranks 16th, scoring 112.2 PPG, and could very easily fall to the bottom third in the league with one bad outing. The Lakers have failed to hit their season average in three of the past four games, putting up 105 and 99 points in consecutive games last week. To add to the Lakers’ troubles, Toronto boasts a top-ten scoring defense. Take the under (-110) in this game.