A win in the first week of November usually should not feel as important as the Los Angeles Lakers grabbing a victory in their last game over the Portland Trailblazers was. Yet considering the contextual circumstances heading into the contest, there were enough genuine reasons to exhale following the win.
After an eventful news cycle surrounding Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson’s confrontational meeting with head coach Luke Walton and facing off against the team who had previously bested them in 16-straight contests, Saturday’s victory was a much needed cleanse for the purple and gold.
The team will have only a night to celebrate their impressive road win though, as they are set to face arguably their most difficult matchup to date, the Toronto Raptors.
Currently on top of the Eastern Conference standings, the 8-1 Raptors have looked downright dominant in the early weeks of the regular season.
Their additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to what was already a solid core group has not only helped create one of the most efficient offensive and defensive teams in the league, but also one of the deepest.
Toronto is in possession of not just one, but two lineups (both are their most used) that have net ratings of +29 and a +31 respectively. This is a better mark than any current Warriors’ lineup that has at least 50 possessions of on court time.
The Lakers’ defense should have their hands full.
The Raptors are currently sporting a 114.4 offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions played) which is fifth-best mark in the league. Crafted with solid guard and wing play, the Raptors’ offense is impressively sound across the board.
The team is seventh in efficiency on corner threes, and also has the seventh highest frequency of attempts on those shots. The Raptors are additionally sixth in made shots at the rim, and third in percentage of makes from midrange.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, and the Eastern Conference, Toronto’s defense has been nearly as impressive.
Allowing only 106.6 points per 100 possessions (the seventh-best mark in the NBA) the team’s assortment of wings have formed terrorizing waves of limbs to force the eighth-highest turnover percentage in the league, mistakes they have somewhat struggle to capitalize on on the other end.
Toronto has the third-highest transition frequency in the league behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Lakers, but the team is only 22nd in terms of transition efficiency.
It will be important the Lakers take care of the ball against the Raptors and try to limit easy looks at the rim. This will be particularly crucial if Leonard is out when the two teams tip off.
Currently listed as “questionable,” Leonard is nursing a sore foot and has been resting during back-to-back situations thus far for Toronto. Sunday’s contest will be the front end of two consecutive games for the Raptors, so it remains to be seen if Leonard will sit out tonight or on Monday.
Whether or not Leonard suits up for the game, this will be a good test to see how the Lakers fare against one of the upper echelon in the NBA. Also, if history has showed us anything, it’s that LeBron James loves to play Toronto.
Time: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet