|-6.5 LAL (-109) @ Betamerica|
My 10* Weekend Wipeout is on the LA Lakers at 10:10 ET.
The Toronto Raptors owned the league's second-best regular season record in 2018-19 and went on to win the NBA title behind Kawhi Leonard. Leonard left as a free agent (LA Clippers) prior to last season but the Raptors again owned the NBA's second-best regular season record (Bucks had the NBA's top record both seasons) and their .736 winning percentage (53-19) was even higher than with Kawhi the year before (58-19, .707). However, the current season has seen Toronto 'flop,' as they visit Staples Center to take on the Lakers with a 26-38 mark. Toronto is tied with the Bulls as each team sits THREE games back of the No. 10 seed, the last team with an entry into the NBA's "Play-In" tournament (7-10 seeds play for the final two playoff spots, the 7th and 8th seeds). More in a bit.
All know the Lakers won the NBA title last season and the offseason additions of PG Schroder (15.5 & 5.8 APG) and PF Harrell (13.9 & 6.4) only made this year's edition an even stronger team. The Lakers opened 21-6 but since Valentine's Day (Feb 14), LA is just 15-21 and the Lakers welcome the Raptors to Staples Center tied with the Mavs at 36-27. Dallas owns the No. 5 seed (via tie-breaker), while LA is the No. 6 seed. As most know by now, only the West's top-6 seeds have a guaranteed playoff spot, as the 7-10 seeds enter a "Play-In" tournament. Portland is just ONE game back of Dallas and LA, so for all intents and purposes, ONE of those three teams will find themselves in the "Play-In" tourney. Dr, Jerry Buss is rolling in his grave.
Toronto has the talent in PF Siakam (20.7-7.1-4.6), guards VanVleet (19.2-4.2-6.2) and Lowry (16.8-5.4-7.3) plus SF Anunoby (15.7 & 5.5) but with no home court (Raptors are playing their 'home' games in Tampa Bay) and a 10-22 record on the road, the 'whole' seems LESS that the sum of its parts. Case in point was last night in Salt Lake City, as the Jazz (without guards Mitchell and Conley) limited the Raptors to 6-of-24 shooting in the fourth quarter after Toronto shot 52% from the floor through the first three quarters. Utah held Toronto to just 13 points in the fourth quarter (Raptors went nearly four minutes without a field goal) to win 106-102.
LA's issues have come in the form of injuries to A.D. (he's missed35 games) and LBJ (he's missed 21 games). A look at the Lakers' injury list and it's LONG but most players are listed as probable for this one. I'm NOT about to guess but LBJ returned Friday for the first time since Mar 20 and A.D. returned April 22 and has played in FIVE straight games. He scored just four points in his first game back but has averaged 20.8 PPG his last four. Center Drummond is starting to fit in very well, averaging 13.4 & 12.0 over his last five games.
Coming off a collapse in the fourth quarter last night in Salt Lake City, the Raptors are "in trouble" vs a Lakers team that NEEDS to put some wins together in the season's final weeks. Lay the points.
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