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Lakers vs. Raptors preview: Must-lose in T Dot

The Lakers are facing a bona fide playoff team. On the road. In their third game in four nights. All is well, right?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of a brutally easy schedule pitting them against several fellow occupants of the NBA's basement, the Los Angeles Lakers will square off against the middling Toronto Raptors Friday night as they look to pick up their third victory in four attempts. After a Wednesday night overtime win in Minnesota that was a thriller by virtue of length and score only, LA takes its merry band of unheralded rookies, benched veterans and journeymen up North against a Raptors team still very much looking to improve its lot in the Eastern Conference playoff seeding.

While it's encouraging to see the Lakers finally committing fully to the youth movement, and Jordan Clarkson coming up big in the clutch bodes well for the future, the Lakers are in a very real battle of their own when it comes to securing their position as a bottom-five team - and upcoming contests against the wholly beatable Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers make tonight's game an absolute must-lose.

Much in the same way a championship caliber team is expected to cruise to victory over a cellar dweller, or conversely, is excused for a hard fought loss to another elite squad, the Lakers can be forgiven for picking up the W in Minnesota, but a win in Toronto could do some serious damage to their lottery odds. While some may point to the sizable gap between the 5th and 6th worst records and the upcoming slew of playoff teams on the Lakers' docket, LA cannot afford to fritter away road losses against good teams coming down the home stretch of this tanktastic season. Although one loss does not a bottom-five team make, every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, despite their success on the season as a whole, whether or not the exact version of the Raptors the Lakers will see tonight can be classified as all that "good" is up for debate. Toronto is coming off a lousy 10 game stretch that saw them go 4-6 and lose Kyle Lowry to recurring back issues. Though DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors' top-4 offense should theoretically slice right through the Lakers' porous schemes, LA's spry backcourt comprised of a resurgent Jeremy Lin and an emergent Jordan Clarkson could similarly have their way with the Raps' bottom-6 defense, with Lowry's absence only exacerbating the latter issue and casting doubt on the former.

Unlike Dr. Grant's cunning evasion of the deadly prehistoric predators wreaking havoc on the island's visitors in Jurassic Park, the Lakers would do well to allow these Raptors to emerge victorious in their hunt. In the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, the tank, uh...must find a way.

Time: 4:30 PM

Station: TWCSN