The Lakers (3-13) just fell to the bottom of the Western Conference by losing to an injury-plagued Minnesota Timberwolves (4-10) on Friday. That doesn’t bode well for Sunday night when they host the Toronto Raptors (13-3), the top team in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors are outscoring opponents by a league-best 10.6 points a game but just lost their leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, to a groin injury. They’ll miss his 19.4 points a game, perhaps giving the Lakers a chance, but then the Timberwolves didn’t have three veteran starters available either.
The Lakers will be without Xavier Henry (Achilles), Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg).
Kyle Lowry has never been named an All-Star, but he’s all but a lock to be this season.
The 28-year-old point guard is averaging 18.6 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds a game, helping to lead the Raptors to their tremendous start.
In the absence of DeRozan, Lowry (and his teammates) will need to do even more.
Jeremy Lin will draw Lowry defensively, at least initially. Lin is averaging 12.6 points and 5.3 assists a game while shooting an efficient 49% from the field, 38.3% from three-point range and 84.6% from the free-throw line.
Where the Lakers, including Lin, need to improve is on the defensive side of the ball, which has been a running theme for the team most of the season.
The Raptors have a number of players who can pick up the slack for the absent DeRozan.
Inside, center Jonas Valanciunas is averaging 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game while shooting 57.8% from the field.
The Lakers will counter with Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre.
Lou Williams is an explosive scorer off the bench. On the season, the reserve guard is contributing 14.3 points a game but he can get very hot, very quickly.
Swingman Terrence Ross, who has a career high of 51 points, has proved to be a strong complementary player.
Again, the Lakers have had problems this season defensively. The Lakers perimeter rotation of Kobe Bryant, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price, Jordan Clarkson and Lin need to step up to the task.
Perhaps the loss to the Timberwolves was just a setback. The Lakers may make a game of it Sunday, but their track record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.