Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#725 Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 vs.
#726 Toronto Raptors 213.5
Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 8:30pm EDT
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
Written by Sporty Jordy

When and where: August 1, 2020, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Kissimmee, FL, 8:30 PM ET

After surviving an epic run-in with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers turn their attention to the Eastern Conference and a showdown with the Toronto Raptors. The defending champion Raptors were riding a four-game winning streak before the season was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. They’ll try to stake their claim as a legitimate title contender by attempting to upset the LeBron James-led Lakers on Saturday.

“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.

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The Raptors will prove to be a formidable challenge to a Lakers team that’s looking like it’s ready to steamroll every opponent in its path. James played defense in the re-opener like he was competing in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I believe the writing is on the wall for the 35-year-old legend. He knows the window to adding to his championship collection is closing.

You can rest assured he won’t be overlooking the Raptors on Saturday night. There is no stopping James or Davis, even for a Raptors defense allowing only 106.5 points per game. They’ll be able to slow them down to some degree, but the Lakers are also capable of burying teams on the perimeter with pure sharpshooters like Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma.

The Lakers also have the ability to match up defensively. While they trail the Raptors on a stat sheet in that category, they are still holding opposing teams to an average 44.4 percent shooting. Siakam is a talented player on the rise, but I don’t see one player on the Raptors roster capable of matching the intensity we’re seeing right now from James. Another statement performance will put the Lakers over the top.

I’m laying the points and taking Los Angeles.

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers (-4)

Full-Game Total Pick

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The Lakers are capable of exploding on offense on any given night. However, they’ll have the misfortune of running into one of the best defensive teams in basketball on Saturday. Despite sitting at the top of the league in shooting percentage, the Lakers do most of their grunt work inside the arc. They actually rank 18th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage, and they’ll be facing the league’s best 3-point shooting defense. This will be one of those games where every bucket will be earned. By the time it’s said and done, we’ll be wondering if we just watched an NBA Finals preview. Give me the under betting total here.

Prediction: Under (215)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Sporty Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys and all the Sun Drop you can drink.