• The Lakers (19-29) head to Toronto on Sunday for a showdown with the Raptors (32-15).

    Los Angeles is in the midst of a hot streak, winning eight of their past 10 games and four in a row. They will be in for a serious challenge as the Raptors have the second-best home record in the NBA at 17-4.

    The Lakers’ recent improvement in play is largely on the merit of their defense — their defensive rating during their 10-game stretch is fourth in the league at 100.2 points per 100 possessions. This improvement is no accident as defense has been the main focus of the players and coaching staff.

    Los Angeles recently found out that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball does not just have a sore knee, but that he has been officially diagnosed with a sprained MCL, an injury that carries a 1-3 week timetable for recovery. He will not be available for Sunday’s contest.

    In his stead, several Lakers have stepped up to help spark this current win-streak. Leading the way have been Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram. The latter carried the Lakers in their 108-103 victory over the Bulls, contributing 25 points, nine rebounds, five assists and one steal while shooting 10-of-18 from the field. He showed leadership and poise throughout the game, improved touch on his mid-range jump shot and made several clutch plays down the stretch to seal the Laker win.

    However, one interesting development for the Lakers is the growth of rookie point guard Alex Caruso. He has provided Los Angeles with a stabilizing force off the bench, playing competitive defense and giving the Lakers a much-needed edge. It was recently pointed out that the Lakers have not lost a game in which Caruso plays at least 18 minutes.

    The main challenge for the Lakers will be stifling the Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan, a Los Angeles native, is having a career-year and was recently selected to be an All-Star starter. Statistically he is having a tremendous campaign averaging 24.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 82.2 percent from the line.

    Key Stats

    • The recently improved Laker defense will have its hands full with the Raptors’ offense, a prolific scoring unit averaging 110.9 points per game (4th). In comparison, the Lakers score 106.6 points per game (9th), an impressive total in their own right.
    • One of the major differences between the two teams is their ability to convert at the line as the Lakers are last in the league (68.6 percent) vs. the Raptors who make 79.8 percent of their freebies (3rd).
    • Free throw shooting will be particularly crucial in this game as both teams foul with great regularity, the Raptors leading the way at 22.3 fouls per game (4th) and the Lakers right behind them with 21.9 fouls per game (6th).
    • Part of the recent success for the Lakers has been their ability to limit their turnovers as they have only committed 8.3 turnovers per game, best in the NBA during that span. For the season they average 16.1 turnovers per game (29th) vs. 13.7 turnovers per game (5th) for the Raptors.
    • The Lakers’ ability to get out and run is vital as they struggle in their half-court offense. On the season they average 17.4 fast break points per game (2nd) and during their four-game win streak they are even better with 21.3 fast break points per game. Toronto is also quite good at running as they average 13.9 fast break points per game (6th).

    Projected Starting Rosters

    Lakers

    Tyler Ennis (PG)

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)

    Brandon Ingram (SF)

    Julius Randle (PF)

    Brook Lopez (C)

    Raptors

    Kyle Lowry (PG)

    DeMar DeRozan (SG)

    OG Anunoby (SF)

    Serge Ibaka (PF)

    Jonas Valanciunas (C)

    Injury Report

    Lakers

    Lonzo Ball (knee sprain) – OUT

    Raptors

    None

    Broadcast Information

    Time: 3:00 PM PST, 6:00 PM EST

    Television: TSN 4/5, SPECSN/SPECD

    Radio: TSN RADIO 1050 TORONTO, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES

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