“Playoff” James arrives on time
Anyone thinking LeBron James was going to show his age or exhibit some signs of rust in Thursday’s re-opener was sadly mistaken. The Lakers needed every bit of his greatness to fend off a Clippers team that gave them all they could handle.
In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, James powered his way to the basket to rebound his own missed shot and laid it back in to put the team ahead by two points. He then locked up Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the other end of the floor to close out the game for a 103-101 Lakers victory.
The Lakers now turn their attention to the No. 1 scoring defense in basketball in Saturday’s game with the Raptors. Unlike the Clippers, they’ll have the size and length to make it difficult for the Lakers to get off good shots.
James struggled from the floor shooting when the two teams met last November, and the rest of the roster failed to step up behind Davis. Granted, James still had a brilliant game and posted a triple-double in the end, but it still wasn’t enough to keep the Raptors from stealing a 113-104 win in Los Angeles.
The Raptors aren’t as imposing offensively as they were a year ago, but they also aren’t a team to be slept on with a burgeoning superstar in Pascal Siakam and a pair of sharpshooters in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Slowing them down will be no easy task for the Lakers defense.
Are the Raptors being overlooked?
The Raptors have the third-best record in the NBA, and they are locking up tighter than Fort Knox on the defensive end of the floor.
So why isn’t anyone talking about them?
It simply boils down to the fact that the NBA is a star-driven league, and the Raptors lack star-power—at least on paper. They are a tremendous team capable of playing great two-way basketball. Kawhi Leonard was the key piece that put them over the top last season, but now, its Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and a strong cast of role players that helped them beat the Golden State Warriors for the NBA Championship. Can that team repeat this year?
Saturday’s game against the Lakers could give us an answer. The Raptors will essentially go head-to-head with the one team pegged as the favorites to go all the way. An unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object.
James won’t have as easy of a time moonwalking in the paint with tremendous defenders like Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol playing down low. Davis didn’t have to see Montrezl Harrell on the floor for the Clippers on Thursday night, but he will see plenty of defensive resistance from a Raptors team that ranks second in the league inefficiency.
Don’t sleep on their ability to heat up from the perimeter as well. If the Lakers get lulled to sleep in the transition, they could end up on the wrong side of a Lowry and VanVleet splash party.