Kentavious Caldwell-Pope layup vs Toronto

Lakers vs. Raptors, Three Things to Know: May 2, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (36-27) face the Toronto Raptors (26-38) at Staples Center on Sunday evening. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum Sportsnet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

LEBRON’S RETURN
For the first time in 41 days, the Lakers had LeBron James back in the lineup, and despite a frustrating loss to Sacramento, he looked impressively like himself in 32 minutes of game action.

It typically takes a ramp up period for players to return to NBA shape, and even though this was the most time LeBron’s ever missed in a regular season, he was moving well from the opening tip. He hit 6 of 12 FG’s for 16 points with eight boards and seven assists, plus two steals and a block, though he did turn it over five times as he tried to navigate a new starting lineup with Andre Drummond in the middle. The Raptors may have a better defensive option for LeBron than the Kings did, with O.G. Anunoby on the wing.

ABOUT THOSE TURNOVERS
The Raptors have more than enough talent to capitalize on miscues, and the Lakers will certainly need to clean up their offense after a 21-turnover effort against the Kings. Dennis Schroder had five to match LeBron, while Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond had two apiece, and Ben McLemore three in his 14 bench minutes. Perhaps contributing: Drummond and McLemore were playing with LeBron for the first time, and Schroder was adjusting to being the second or third option to make plays with the King back. Clearly, it’s going to take some time for LAL to mesh on the offensive end, but it can’t take too much time, with the playoffs only nine games away.

The Raptors still have an outside chance at sneaking into the No. 10 spot in the East, but will need to play terrific basketball for two weeks and get some help in the form of a collapse from Washington (3.0 games up), Indiana (3.5) or Charlotte (4.0). In other words, the Raptors will be desperate for a win.

MATCHUP CHANGES
When the Lakers beat Toronto 110-101 on April 6 in their adopted home of Tampa, they started Marc Gasol, Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris, all of whom are now back to the bench with the return of LeBron and AD, and the addition of Drummond. Meanwhile for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet both missed that game, and Chris Boucher – who’s now injured – started at center. Their current starting center is Khem Birch, who was on Orlando in early April, and VanVleet hasn’t been playing in B2B’s, and could miss Sunday’s game after playing in Toronto’s Saturday evening 106-102 loss at Utah. Rookie Malachi Flynn has been playing pretty well when one of the two veteran guards sits, and will likely start against the Lakers. Regardless of who’s on the floor, the Lakers should be highly motivated after losing five of six games, and blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in their previous game.

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