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Los Angeles Lakers v Toronto Raptors

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The Rap-Up: Wrapping up the West coast road trip

Halfway through the toughest road trip of the season and the Raptors are 2-1. Can they finish on a high note?

Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Welcome to the Pascal Siakam rodeo show, where each city visited by the Raptors gets an up-close look at Siakam and a trade rumour leaked to the media!

Last week, Toronto’s 6-game West Coast road trip kicked off in Memphis. There weren’t any major trade rumours bandied about but the Grizzlies currently have the 3rd-best odds of landing Siakam. Two nights later, rumours started swirling that the Kings were making a heavy push for Pascal — while the two teams prepared to play each other. Within a couple of hours, Sacramento apparently dropped out of the sweepstakes because they didn’t want to part with Keegan Murray.

Before facing the Warriors on Sunday, Siakam was linked to Golden State. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody both voiced displeasure about their respective roles/playing time under Steve Kerr. It seemed like a viable destination since the Warriors had a decent mix of young prospects (Kuminga, Moody, and Brandon Podziemski) and salary-filling veterans (Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, and....gulp....Andrew Wiggins). However, Michael Grange reported on Saturday evening that Golden State would be reluctant to part with Kuminga.

3 games. 3 possible Siakam destinations. Buckle up, folks, because it’s going to be like this for 4 more weeks! The saga continues this week.

Will we see a Lakers rumour centred around sending D’Angelo Russell, Gabe Vincent, and Jalen Hood-Schifino to Toronto? What about the Clippers? Will they finally part with Terrence Mann if it means reuniting Siakam and Kawhi Leonard? The Jazz essentially have their entire roster on the block. Danny Ainge may be more difficult to deal with than Masai Ujiri, but he is well aware of what Siakam brings to the table from his days in the Celtics front office.

Or maybe Pascal just stays put!

Seriously. Why trade an All-NBA player who wants to stay in the city? Especially since the vibes are definitely back!

January 9 @ Los Angeles Lakers

Toronto continues its longest road trip of the season with a visit to the reigning In-Season Tournament champions! Wow, LeBron James makes history again! He led a roster full of players that didn’t fit around him to the first-ever IST title. Surely, this has propelled the team to incredible heights.

Oh. I see.

As the Lakers continue falling down the standings, their desperation to right the ship will only get rockier. LeBron’s comments carry a lot more meaning because it’s very obvious that this team is poorly constructed to capitalize on King James’ strengths. You’d think after witnessing LeBron amass 4 titles and 4 Finals MVPs, ownership would know the success formula: surround James with shooters!

At 39.7% from deep on 5.6 attempts, the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter is.....LeBron James. The Lakers rank 30th in 3-point attempts, 29th in 3-point makes, and 25th in 3-point FG%. They are quite excellent at scoring around the rim, but offensive success lives (and dies) with the 3-pointer.

Fun fact that may only interest me

For the first time since his rookie season, Anthony Davis has a usage percentage that’s lower than the 90th percentile among bigs. At 24.7% usage, that would be his lowest total since his sophomore season with New Orleans.

For someone who ranks 2nd in rebounding, 5th in win shares, 8th in VORP, and has been healthy enough to play in 35 of 37 games, my only question is.....why are the Lakers not feeding him more?

Prediction

Lakers excel offensively at the rim but defend the three poorly. Toronto’s new and improved offense should have a healthy dose of open threes.

While L.A. takes a large amount of shots at the rim (#2 in rim frequency; #7 in rim accuracy), they do not crash the offensive glass (#29 in offensive rebounding percentage), thus, having a lot of one-and-done possessions (#30 in putbacks)

For Los Angeles, this game is sandwiched between marquee matchups with the Clippers (which they won) and Suns. In other words, I smell a trap game! After having its 7-game road win streak against the Lakers snapped last season, the Raptors start a new streak, beating Los Angeles, 117-108.

January 10 @ Los Angeles Clippers

Do you remember the movie, American Pie? (If you don’t know the movie or haven’t seen it....shame on you! Skip to the next section!)

Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) are on a mission to lose their virginity before graduating from high school. Well, except for Oz, who has already had sex and is seen as a bit of a role model to his best friends. Anyway, the movie shows the many trials and tribulations they each go through before finally fulfilling their dreams in the end.

The American Pie cast is the Los Angeles Clippers!

The team is centered around 4 players — Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Only one of them has “gone all the way.” The other three have suffered a calamity of injuries, played on mismanaged teams, and/or not been able to lead their respective teams to the promised land.

After a rough patch following the Harden acquisition, the Clippers have shown some serious life. They’ve won 14 of 17 games with the only losses coming against Boston, Oklahoma City, and a desperate Lakers squad that got a little lucky that Kawhi was on a minutes restriction.

Will they finally get laid reach the promised land this season?

Fun fact that may only interest me

I’m not sure this is as much a “fun fact” as it is a thought exercise.

The Raptors have a fair share of potential alumni to honour. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Vince Carter may all see their Raptors jerseys retired before we see one from the Clippers.

Who would they retire?

The 5 best players, in terms of win shares accumulated at Clippers, are Chris Paul, Deandre Jordan, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin, and Bob McAdoo. None of those players led the Clippers past the second round. The only time they reached the Conference Finals, they lost to a team led by......Chris Paul.

Prediction

Clippers are 14-4 at home and have an extra day of rest. This smells like a scheduled loss for the Raptors.

The Clippers are one of only 4 teams (including Boston, Philadelphia, and Oklahoma City) that ranks in the top 10 in both Offense (#7) and Defense (#7). They rank 6th in 3-point defense, 7th in mid-range defense, and have the 2nd-ranked halfcourt defense (points per play allowed).

Offensively, L.A. has the best transition offense off steals, ranking 2nd in corner threes, 1st in non-corner threes, and 1st in short mid-range shots.

Toronto will reach unspeakable levels of confidence if the Raptors leave Los Angeles with both wins, but this is the matchup where OG Anunoby’s absence is felt. Clippers win 125-119. (If you’re keeping track at home, yes, this would have been another lost opportunity for the pizza party)

January 12 @ Utah Jazz

While traveling from Los Angeles to their final stop of the road trip in Utah, the Raptors will celebrate the 31st birthday (on January 11) of one Christopher Boucher! What better gift to give him than a starting role in place of the injured Jakob Poeltl?

Less than 3 weeks after a mind-boggling, 4th-quarter collapse at Scotiabank Arena against the Jazz, the new-look Raptors will be seeking revenge on Utah’s home court.

If it’s any consolation, Raptors fans, the Jazz have not slowed down since overcoming a 13-point deficit in the final frame in Toronto. Utah has won 8 of its last 10 games, including wins over Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.

The Jazz situation seems eerily similar to the Raptors. Despite trade talk swirling around the roster, the team is finally showing signs that the current roster construction may actually work!

Fun fact that may only interest me

January 1st wasn’t only the beginning of great things in Toronto (and New York), but also in Utah.

Jordan Clarkson notched the first triple-double (20 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) for a Jazz player since February 13, 2008. That’s 5,801 days and 1,256 games.

Carlos Boozer notched the previous triple-double as the Jazz defeated the....**checks notes**.....**jaw drops to ground**....Seattle Supersonics.

Prediction

Splitting the season series with Utah may be a tough task for Toronto. The Jazz currently sports an impressive 11-5 home record. They’re 2nd in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage — an area of concern for a Raptors team that just lost its best rebounder, Jakob Poeltl, to an ankle sprain.

Assuming Poeltl is still out, Chris Boucher / Scottie Barnes / Jontay Porter will have their hands full trying to keep Walker Kessler (8th in offensive rebounding percentage), Lauri Markkanen (2.4 offensive rebounds per game), and John Collins (2.2 offensive rebounds per game) off the glass.

Utah spoils an otherwise successful road trip by beating the visiting Raptors, 122-113.

********

Last Week: 4-0

Season Record: 24-12

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