The Raptors are off to an impressive 6-2 start, but their last win came with a cost: The team lost both Kyle Lowry (fractured thumb) and Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) as they beat New Orleans, which was the first of a five-game road trip. Now it’s on to L.A. for a killer back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers, shorthanded.
Lowry had been outstanding to start the season, averaging 21.8 points with 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds, making 42.6 percent of his 3s. Ibaka, too, had been terrific, averaging 14.8 points and 1.3 blocks off the bench. Toronto just doesn’t have the depth to cover those losses.
The Lakers, of course, have been rolling since their dud performance on Opening Night, winners of seven straight, with covers in six of those games. The defense has been stellar, ranked No. 1 in efficiency at 96.5 points per 100 possessions. The star combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis has, as expected, carried the load, with 52.5 points per game combined.
But the offense around those guys remains a concern. The Lakers shoot 30.8 percent from the 3-point line, 28th in the league. Danny Green has been reliable, at 43.9 percent, but the rest of the team’s shooters are making only 28.1 percent.
Raptors vs. Lakers Preview
The Lakers continue to be the top post-up offense in the NBA. They get 11.9 points per game from the post—mostly from James and Davis—and at 1.13 points per possession, they have the league’s most efficient post-up offense.
On the flip side, though, the Raptors have the best post-up defense in the league, anchored by center Marc Gasol and the forward combo of Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby. Toronto allows only 1.5 points per game in the post and 0.55 points per possession, which are both best in the league.
The Raptors are outmanned without Lowry and Ibaka, and probably would have been outmanned even if those guys were healthy. They’re going to need Fred VanVleet to snap out of his shooting slump in a hurry—VanVleet has done well as a playmaker, but he is shooting 28.0 percent from the field in Toronto’s last seven games.
Still, the Raptors do a nice job of creating spot-up opportunities—the Lakers defend those plays well, however—and even without Lowry, those will be available. It’s a tough situation, but they should be able to muck up this game enough to keep it close, even if they don’t have much chance at getting the win.
Between the Raptors’ ability to defend the post and the Lakers’ top-ranked defense, this should not be a high-scoring meeting. Fanduel.com has the Lakers as 10.5-point favorites with an over/under of 214 points.
Raptors vs. Lakers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Raptors, +10.5
SCORE PREDICTION: Lakers 107, Raptors 99