With 13 wins already, the Toronto Raptors will finish off November with the most wins in any month of the franchise’s history. The most Toronto had reached previously was 11 in March 1999, January 2002 and again in January 2014. They will also lose the fewest number of games in the opening month (Oct./Nov.) of a season (6 in 1999.)
The 13-3 Raptors will roll into Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Sunday minus their All-Star DeMar DeRozan who is out indefinitely with a torn left adductor (thigh) tendon. He could be out for several weeks or even longer if surgery is required, but as Kyle Lowry said, “next man up.”
The Lakers are off to a terrible start and currently reside at the bottom of the Western Conference at 3-13. However, they have faced one of the NBA’s toughest schedules to-date and have picked up wins against Charlotte, Atlanta and Houston (yes, that’s all of their wins), so they are likely better than most of the other non-playoff teams in the West.
Future Hall-of-Fame guard Kobe Bryant leads the league in scoring at 26.4 points per game, but he’s taking 23.1 field goal attempts which is twice as many as any of his teammates and he’s shooting 38.8 percent from the field. However, the Lakers truly are a collection of parts thrown together at the last minute and they are just as likely to defer to Bryant as he is to try and dominant the offense. Unsurprisingly, the Lakers haven’t shown a lot of team chemistry, but if they find any, this squad would quickly become that much more dangerous.
The first-place Raptors have a three game lead over both Washington and Chicago. They are 4-2 against the top-eight teams in the East with wins against Washington, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Cleveland. Toronto is 2-1 against the top-eight teams in the West with wins against Memphis and Phoenix. They are 7-0 against teams under .500 this season.
Toronto’s backup guards Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez have shot a combined for a 49.2 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the charity stripe over the last three games while contributing 30.6 points off the bench. Vasquez finally starting to find the form he had with Toronto last season and Williams fitting in like he has never played anywhere else. Their timing couldn’t have been better as these two players will be expected to pick up a lot of the slack during DeRozan’s absence. They are the next men up in Toronto.
The good news for the Raptors is when DeRozan missed three games last season, Toronto went 3-0 and Vasquez led the team in scoring as a starter in one of those games. There is no reason for the team’s confidence to be shaken because of their All-Star’s absence and this year the Raptors are a deeper squad.
The players on these two teams know each other well:
- Ed Davis was drafted by the Toronto in 2010 and played there until 2013.
- Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez were teammates in Memphis (2010-11) and New Orleans (2011-13).
- Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields were teammates on the Knicks (2011-12). Lin played with Patrick Patterson in Houston (2012-13).
- Jordan Hill and Chuck Hayes were on the Rockets (2009-10 and 2010-11). Hill was teammates with Kyle Lowry and Patterson in Houston (2010-12).
- Carlos Boozer and James Johnson were teammates in Chicago (2010-11).
- Nick Young and DeMar DeRozan both attended USC.
The Lakers have split the last two season series with the Raptors 1-1. Toronto has to ignore the records and come ready to play if they hope to get out of L.A. with a win on Sunday.
DeMar DeRozan has a torn adductor tendon (thigh), it’ll be a lot longer than just a few games, so how will GM Ujiri react? Can Vasquez, Williams and Johnson fill the gap?