Three Thoughts: Basketball is back, Stopping AD, Playing in transition
The Toronto Raptors will open their seeding schedule at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight against the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers.
It'll be the first meaningful game the Raptors have played in since March 9, when they defeated the Utah Jazz 101-92.
Here are three things to look for against the Lakers:
1: Basketball is back
The Raptors' final scrimmage game was a total dud. They got run off the court by the Phoenix Suns and never seemed to really care in a 117-106 loss.
Tonight the Raptors will actually have something to play for and will return to the court with their injury-free traditional starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol. It's a lineup that made a team-high 17 starts together and was +71 in 280 minutes this year but hasn't started together since January 28.
"I think that the first thing we’ve got to do is find out where we are and I think it’s been hard to tell that through the scrimmages," Nurse said. "Tonight ought to give us a better indication of that."
Though the top spot in the East is essentially out of reach for the Raptors, a loss to the Los Angeles tonight would clinch the No. 1 seed for both the Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks.
2: Stopping AD
The Raptors are going to have their hands full tonight with two of the NBA's best players. Anthony Davis has been the Lakers'' leading scorer, averaging 26.8 points per game.
"Davis is one of the great players in the league for sure," Nurse said. "He's a lob threat, with a post threat, a three-point shooter, and a shot blocker so he kind of puts a lot of pressure on your team so we're certainly going to have to hopefully be able to attack him with kind of our double bigs, Marc and Serge will both kind of get him and we’ll probably have to use a few schemes against Davis."
Then there's LeBron James, who is averaging 25.6 points and 10.5 assists per game this year. He also leads the NBA in assist points created, with 26.4 points per game, according to NBA Stats.
"There's all those issues with LeBron," Nurse said. "The first one is standing in there and, being able to play against the freight train coming down hill. Protecting the rim and then getting out to contest the shooters once he does fire those hundred-mile-an hour fastballs is out to them."
3: Playing in transition
The Raptors entered the COVID-19 hiatus with the NBA's best transition defense and one of the league's top transition offenses. Their ability to get out and run while locking down opposing teams in transition is something that stuck with Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
"This is the No. 1 fast-breaking team in the NBA, they make great decisions when they push, they’ve got great speed and athleticism and can shoot it," Vogel said. "We’ll be tested in that regard tonight, for sure."
The Lakers ranked sixth in transition offense this year, averaging 1.14 points per possession and 12th in transition defense, averaging 1.09 points per possession.