When the Toronto Raptors left on their West Coast road trip, they knew they had some tough competition ahead — BUT so far they’ve won against two of the TOUGHEST teams in the NBA. After hard fought games against the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets, the Raptors’ spirits should be high.
Now they are in sunny Los Angeles to face the Lakers tonight, where LeBron James and his squad have struggled to keep up this season. They currently sit in 9th in the West with a record of 29-37, putting them in a place where they will likely be in the play-in come post season.
Toronto on the other hand, should be riding HIGH after the weekend they just had. The wins against the Suns and Nuggets aside, they now sit just one game behind Cleveland in a race for the sixth seed.
Avoiding the play-in tournament would give the Raptors much needed rest at the beginning of the playoffs, AND ensure they avoid playing the number one seeded team in the first round.
The top teams in the East are all tough, but if this season has taught us anything about the current Toronto Raptors squad, it’s to not count them out.
That number six spot is in their sights, and with the Raptors having the favoured betting odds in tonight’s match up against the Lakers, they could reach it sooner rather than later.
Catch the action on Sportsnet at 10:30PM EST.
Toronto — Armoni Brooks, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Los Angeles — LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson, Austin Reaves
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (knee – questionable), Malachi Flynn (hamstring – out), OG Anunoby (finger – out)
Los Angeles — Anthony Davis (foot – out), Kendrick Nunn (knee – out)
Shooting Slumps Be Gone
The beginning of March saw a few hard-to-swallow loses for the Raptors. Not only has Fred VanVleet been in and out with injury, but a few of the players who would normally step up in his absence struggled.
One being Gary Trent Jr. But over the weekend he seemed to be heading out of the slump. He scored 42 points in the Raptors’ win against Phoenix and while he took a little bit more of a back seat role to Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes in the Denver game, he is still a key part of this lineup.
If Fred VanVleet continues to sit out, Gary Trent Jr will have to step up — which he is more than capable of doing, based on Friday night’s performance.
Everything’s Coming Up Rookie
Scottie Barnes was extremely close to getting his first career triple double in Saturday night’s game when he scored 25 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. The rookie has been on FIRE as of late, not only bringing his normal flare to the court, but also showing the many ways in which he as improved during his short NBA career.
One moment in particular was later in the game when he missed two back to back three point attempts. Instead of working to make a shot after shot while they just weren’t going in, on the third play he instead drove to the basket - easily scoring in the post.
On that note, his post game has been TERRIFIC as of late. Plus, with Fred VanVleet out in Saturday’s game, Barnes was given more time on the ball - just proving how versatile of a player he really is. Rookie of the Year, anyone?
Take Advantage of the Schedule
Of all games in this road trip, people definitely did not think The Raptors would have come out with wins against BOTH Denver and Phoenix — but here we are! So, now that the next few games are against the Lakers and the Clippers — teams that are lower than them in the standings — it’s time to end this road trip on a high note.
If this team, who are missing 1-2 starters per game currently, can win against the reigning MVP AND the number one team in the entire league - they can win against these LA teams. Ending the West Coast trip with a few more w’s before coming back home to face some TOUGH Eastern Conference opponents will help the Raptors in their quest for the sixth seed.
So, will it be heaven for the Raptors in the City of Angels?
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.