Lakers Vs. Raptors Preview: D’Angelo Russell Expected To Play For First Time Since Feb. 23
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers continue their homestand by facing the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

The Lakers are coming off a key victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. A win for L.A. would give them their third 3-game winning streak in the last month. On the other hand, the Raptors lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and have lost four of their previous six games.

The big injury news for the Lakers surrounds D’Angelo Russell’s return to the lineup. He has not played since suffering an ankle injury on Feb. 23. He was listed as a game-time decision on Tuesday and went through a pre-game workout to determine his status. But the Lakers ruled him out and opted for two extra rest days before Friday’s matchup.

Russell’s return offers an important playmaker the Lakers lacked at times in his absence. Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroder had to take larger roles in spreading wealth and setting teammates up. With Russell coming back, it will take the pressure off the guards and add a scoring threat defenses have to respect.

LeBron James continues to be out with right foot soreness though and a new addition to the injury report was center Mo Bamba, who will miss at least four weeks with a high right ankle sprain. His absence means more minutes for Wenyen Gabriel. Everyone else is available for the Lakers.

For Toronto, newly-acquired forward Will Barton will play after missing the previous game with an illness. Otto Porter Jr. is out after undergoing season-ending surgery in January. The Raptors have no other injuries.

These two teams faced off in December, their only meeting of the season, when Toronto dominated the Lakers in a win that Davis and LeBron sat out.

Toronto has struggled to find consistency this season, but a trade to acquire Jakob Poetl during the deadline sprung a four-game winning streak. They’ve crashed down to Earth since then, behind a starting rotation with enough wings to satisfy a bird — Fred VanVleet is the only starting guard.

However the Lakers match up with Toronto, it doesn’t hide the fact that the Raptors have become one of the worst-scoring teams in the league. Their field goal (45.4%) and 3-point percentage (33.7%) per game are near the bottom. They are also one of the slowest teams in the NBA.

But, for all of the Raptors’ offensive woes, it’s their defense they continue to lean on. They force the second-most turnovers and seventh-fewest points per game. The return of Russell can counter the high rate of turnovers forced by the Raptors, but the Lakers have to be careful once they give the ball away — Toronto has the third-most fast break points per game.

It’s another key game for the Lakers on Friday. Russell’s return brings the playmaking they desire for a run down the stretch. A win will keep the Lakers climbing in the tight standings.

Los Angeles Lakers (32-34) vs. Toronto Raptors (32-35)

7:30 p.m. PT, March 10, 2023 Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel, Lonnie Walker IV

Projected Raptors Starting Lineup:

PG: Fred VanVleet
SG: O.G. Anunoby
SF: Scottie Barnes
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Jakob Poetl

Key Reserves: Gary Trent Jr., Will Barton, Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa

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