The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday in the unusual NBA city of Tampa, Fla.
Here are three things to consider for the game:
1. The Lakers have done a good job of beating teams they’re supposed to beat.
Cleveland? Check. Orlando? No problem. Sacramento? Easy.
Here comes another team below L.A. in the standings. The Toronto Raptors (20-30) have fallen short of expectations and appeared to punt the rest of the season by dealing a solid player at the trade deadline (Norman Powell) in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.
Luckily for the Raptors, Trent Jr. has played well. Unfortunately for them, they’re still probably not making the playoffs, even in the watered-down Eastern Conference.
The Raptors will face the Lakers without their dynamic backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (foot infection) and Fred Van Vleet (sore hip).
This is the Lakers' most winnable game in their five-game swing through the East. Miami (26-24) and Brooklyn (25-16) are next on the L.A.'s schedule, followed by New York (25-26) and Charlotte (25-24).
The Lakers (31-19) might get Andre Drummond back Tuesday after he missed two games because of a toe injury, but there is still no timetable for the return of LeBron James (sprained ankle) or Anthony Davis (calf and Achilles’ tendon soreness).
2. Why are the Lakers and Raptors playing in Tampa?
It’s strange, but the Raptors have played all their home games this season in Florida because of the numerous COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions they’d otherwise face going back and forth between Canada and the U.S.
In fact, they haven’t had a home game in Toronto since February of last year. It makes the Lakers’ current road trip look a lot shorter.
The Raptors have made a new, temporary camp at Amalie Arena, normally known as the home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Not surprisingly, there isn’t much of a home-court edge there for Toronto. The Raptors are 11-12 in “home games” this season.
3. The Lakers were never really in their last game, losing to the Clippers by 18 after trailing by 14 at the half.
Two starters struggled in particular — Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schröder. They combined for 14 points in 66 minutes, a problem for a team desperate for offense without James and Davis.
Kuzma was coming off a 30-point effort against Sacramento but never found traction against the Clippers, making only two of 10 shots. Schröder was almost as weak, making only three of 12.
The good news for the Lakers might be the relatively poor Raptors defense. Toronto is 21st in the league against the three-point shot and 17th in overall defensive rating.