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Lakers vs. Raptors Preview: D’Angelo Russell returns

After a celebratory night on Tuesday, the Lakers will now celebrate getting their starting point guard back in the lineup on Friday when they face off against the Toronto Raptors.

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Los Angels Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans had what may have been the team’s most enjoyable night of basketball, since they won the 2020 NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble.

During that night, the Lakers beat one of the top teams in the Western Conference in the Memphis Grizzlies (without Ja Morant) behind a monster 30-point, 22-rebound game from Anthony Davis. That individual performance of his has now created a string of explosive and noteworthy games from Davis, as he continues to get back to his MVP-level play from before the stress injury in his right foot.

But even more joyful than that, the purple-and-gold faithful were allowed to celebrate former Laker legend Pau Gasol, as his number 16 jersey was retired and displayed up in the rafters right alongside his old running mate, Kobe Bryant.

Like I said, it was an extremely fun evening in Lakerland! But now, attention has to be refocused back on the task at hand, which is getting higher-and-higher in the standings before the regular season ends.

And luckily for the Lakers, they’ll have a little shot of adrenaline into their offense just in time for when the Toronto Raptors come into the Arena on Friday night.

D’Lo Back

The Lakers are getting a key offensive playmaker back in the lineup! No, unfortunately, I’m not talking about LeBron James, but I am talking about the next best thing the team has in that department in the form of D’Angelo Russell.

Russell has missed the team’s last 6 games due to a right ankle sprain he suffered in the Feb. 23 win against the Warriors.

In that time (with LeBron James only playing in one of the games), the team has gone 4-2. With Russell now, he has the potential to come in and make an impact in what would be the third win in a row for the Lakers if they were to beat the Raptors on Friday.

In those 6 games, the Lakers have the third-best Defensive Rating in the league in that span of time. On the offensive end though, they’ve been lacking without LeBron when compared to the rest of the league as they’re ranked 25th in Offensive Rating across the games that D’Lo has missed.

The Raptors are right behind the Lakers in that offensive rating ranking, but their defense lately does not compare with a 114.5 defensive rating in their last 6 games compared to the Lakers’ 108.1.

Russell has an opportunity to really inject this team with some offensive firepower, and with the small Fred VanVleet in front of him and a lack of a big center to deter Anthony Davis, maybe we’ll see the Lakers’ offense catch up to its defense to deliver a comfortable win against the Raptors.

Notes and Updates

  • As if Darvin Ham’s confirmation wasn’t enough, the Lakers officially listed D’Angelo Russell as probable on the injury report. He will be in the starting lineup vs. the Raptors.
  • It’s not all good news for the Lakers currently, as the team announced that center Mo Bamba will be out for approximately four weeks (or more), with Bamba set to get re-evaluated at the end of that period. Bamba suffered a high left ankle sprain early in Sunday’s win vs. the Warriors. It’ll be interesting to see if the team feels they need to bring in another new face to serve as their backup big man in the interim.
  • Anthony Davis will be probable with his right foot stress injury while LeBron James will continue to be out with his right foot issue. Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr. will also be out (G-League play).
  • On Toronto’s side, they will be without Otto Porter Jr. (left foot surgery) while the recently acquired Will Barton will be probable (non-COVID illness).
  • Jose Wieskamp, Ron Harper Jr., Christian Koloko, and Dalano Banton (G-League play) will all be out.

The Lakers and Raptors will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will be nationally televised on NBA TV and locally televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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