Whooooo-eeeeey was that ever a good time – unless you’re resolutely in the Tank Camp – for GTJ to anoint himself among the eight other buzzer-beating Toronto Raptors.
Sure, maybe it was a push-off. The murderous look in Raul Neto’s eye as three fully-grown humans held him back from jiujitsuing the Refs certainly suggested so. As did his superlatively theatric embellishment – worthy of Michael Scott’s improv class.
Or, as Neto’s five-metre Fosbury Flop indicated, maybe the push-off was fabricated.
Either way, you can’t call an offensive foul like that on the last play of the game. Not unless it’s Lebron-level waterworks.
First winning streak in a month and a half, LET’S GO!
In the Raptors’ championship year, they played twelve games with no rest (i.e. the second game of a back-to-back) over the course of seven months (they finished 9-3). This year, barring any more cancellations, they will have played fifteen no-rest games in five months.
That’s Hellish. This also happens to be the third of six games in ten days. Freddy-Krueger Hellish.
Playing two NBA games in two days is a challenge in the best of times. Add the Tampa experience, the travel, the thinner roster, the injuries, and COVID, and it’s no wonder Toronto is a league-worst 1-9 and lose by an average of ten points in games with no rest.
The Lakers, conversely, are a triumphant 8-1 when they have a rest advantage over the opposing team. Mind you, all of those wins came either with Lebron James, Anthony Davis, or both. So, maybe the point is irrelevant.
What is relevant, is the fact that Lebron and AD are not playing tonight. They’ve been out for some time now.
AD has missed the last twenty-two games (10-12 in that span). Lebron’s not dressed the last nine (he was injured early in the game against Atlanta); the Lakers are 3-6 since his ankle sprain.
The only wins the Lakers have snagged without both Space Jammers (peeps the Trailer) were against Cleveland (no leading scorer, Collin Sexton), Orlando (post-wholesale trade of their starting lineup), and Sacramento (okay, fine, a legitimate win).
You smell what I am cooking here though, right?
With no return timetables for either player (according to the Los Angeles Times), collars in the Front Office are gettin’ a bit tight. Captain Pelinka’s USS Lakers is officially at Red Alert.
As of this morning, the Lakers are fifth in the Western Conference, but only treading 2.5 games above Play-In water.
They start off a five-game road trip in Tampa Bay and then go to Miami, New York, Brooklyn, and Charlotte. That’s an Eastern Seaboard of trouble. After Boston at home, the Lakers play two sets of back-to-backs against Utah and Dallas, two teams hotter than a set of twin babies.
I dunno about you, but I’m thinking, if…sorry, WHEN…they lose to Toronto, that’s one win maybe two for the Lake Show. A 1-9 or 2-8 sinks them deep in Play-In territory.
Imagine! A healthy AD/Lebron running show in the Play-In then smashing a less-than-jubilant, first-place Utah Jazz or Phoenix Suns in the first round. Such Shakespearean cruelty.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Interestingly, the Lakers’ defence has not suffered since losing Lebron. They’ve only given up 105 points per game, good enough for second in the league.
What has ailed the Lakers, severely, is their lack of offensive output. They are scoring an abysmal 100 points per game – three points below the league’s worst.
There’s no surprise there. Lebron is THE OFFENCE wherever he plays.
The remaining Lakers are [good!] role players, but it’s tough to ask a Montrezl Harrell or Dennis Schröder, who make their livings roasting opposing benches and attacking starting lineups’ third/fourth-best defenders, to heft the bulk of the scoring.
The Raptors know this pain all too well – still do, for goodness sakes. Nurse is bound to exploit the Lakers’ offensive fragility with as much aggressive pressure and physicality as he can afford. Neither Schröder nor Kuzma – their first and third leading scorers – who are more of the finesse-variety relish the smashmouth.
Get the ball out of their hands and, now, the Lakers are eking it out with Harrell, Markieff Morris, and former-future-Raptor, Talen Horton-Tucker, all of whom, are at the kind of height and athleticism the Raptors can manage.
The Tri-Achilles Heel of the Raptors defence is offensive rebounding, threes, and bench points. Lucky for them, in the last eight games, the Lakers are 0.1 O-Rebs away from 27th (newly-added rebounding gargantuan, Andre Drummond, has been injured), 25th, and 29th respectively.
Though, as is tradition, and as we saw with Garrison Matthews last night, Alex Caruso’s fated to rip off three or four treys tonight.
Ptooey! to back-to-backs and fluky three-point performances! Raptors seem to do quite well with Superstar-less teams – go figure.
Besides, they’re riding high off a wonky game that they should have lost, then won, then should have lost again, but ultimately won. Plus, there were a lot of positives from the W to carry into tonight:
- Malachi Flynn played EXACTLY how one would want from a late-first round rookie point guard suddenly thrust into starter minutes.
- Aron Baynes finally – FINALLY – played like the Centre Masai thought he was signing.
- GTJ continues to score at opportune moments, especially when the Raps start to stagnate.
- Bembry was aggressive on both sides of the ball and successful at the rim.
- We have more to give: Siakam played only one half of good basketball; OG struggled offensively; and, Boucher was victimized by the Alex-Len-revenge-game.
Should [insert strong intonation of skepticism] the Raps put it all together tonight, the Lakers won’t have the firepower to contend.
Alsoooo, this is a prime opportunity for Masai to get in the ear of former-Champion and currently-disgruntled-Laker, Marc Gasol. To convince him to return to Toronto and fill our MORE THAN VACANT centre position: Marc, Papá, somos familia. Come home, Marc, come home.
Tip-off: 7:30pm ET | TV: TSN, SportsNet LA | Radio: TSN RADIO 1050
Paul Watson is still under Health and Safety Protocols.
Kyle Lowry (toe), Rodney Hood (hip), Patrick McCaw (knee), Jalen Harris (hip), and Fred VanVleet (hip flexor) are out.
PG: Malachi Flynn
SG: DeAndre’ Bembry
SF: Gary Trent Jr.
PF: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Yuta Watanabe
C: Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Lebron James (ankle), Anthony Davis (Achilles), and Jared Dudley (knee) are out.
Andre Drummond (toe) and Wesley Matthews (neck) are day-to-day.
PG: Alex Caruso
SG: Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Talen Horton-Tucker
SF: Kyle Kuzma, Alfonso McKinnie
PF: Markieff Morris, Devontae Cacok, Kostas Antetokounmpo
C: Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, Damion Jones
The Raptors have the upper hand by -2 points.
The Over-Under is 210.5. Raps and Wiz scored a combined 204 point last night. The Lakers are a stingier defence and a more benign offence. Something to consider.
Bet wisely, friends.