The Los Angeles Lakers started their week-long Eastern Conference road trip on the right foot on Tuesday by beating the Chicago Bulls 123-107. On Thursday, they’ll travel a little further northeast to take on the Toronto Raptors.
When the Lakers saw the Raptors earlier this season in Los Angeles, Toronto ran them out of their own building, beating them 121-107 despite not having Kawhi Leonard on their active roster. At one point in the game, they led by as much as 31 points.
Since then, the Raptors have added three-time All-Star Marc Gasol and veteran guards Jeremy Lin, Jodie Meeks and Patrick McCaw while sacrificing very little depth and retaining all of their first-round draft picks. All the while, they’re getting career years from Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. From top to bottom, they’re a well-ran organization.
Could you imagine?
With a fully healthy roster, the Lakers would probably give the Raptors a run for their money and make the game interesting, especially because of how bad they were blown out in their first meeting. However, with two of their starters sidelined and a handful of their key bench players battling injuries, this one could be settled by the time the first quarter buzzer sounds. For the Lakers, that might not be such a bad thing.
With 15 games left in the season, the Lakers are seven games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 31-36 record. Alternatively, they’re just one game back in the loss column from having a top-10 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.
As fun as the Lakers upsetting the team with the second-best record in the NBA would be, there’s no real reason for them to win this game unless the winner gets Kawhi Leonard in free agency.
So, let Andre Ingram get the same amount of shots Kobe Bryant got in his final game, let Isaac Bonga and Moe Wagner initiate the offense and let Lance Stephenson call the plays for the night. Just make it enjoyable, and, most importantly: Embrace the tank. Love the tank. Be the tank.
Tip-off is at 5 p.m. PST on TNT.