LeBron James and his injury-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers visit Kawhi Leonard and the high-flying Toronto Raptors, live on Sky Sports Arena late on Thursday night (midnight).
Live NBA: LA Lakers @ Toronto
The Lakers (31-36) were finally able to put an end to their five-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 123-107 victory over the Bulls. Their reward? They get to play the team with the second-best record in the NBA two nights later.
LeBron James was exceptional against Chicago, posting 36 points, 10 rebounds and four assists across 33 minutes, and he'll have to continue that high level of play if the injury-depleted Lakers want any chance of winning games down the stretch.
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Lonzo Ball (ankle) and Brandon Ingram (shoulder) have been shut down for the rest of the season. Tyson Chandler (neck), Josh Hart (knee) and Lance Stephenson (toe) are all listed as questionable for Thursday's game. Those injuries have left Los Angeles with a worrying lack of depth off the bench.
As for the Raptors (48-20), they have managed to maintain a healthy roster through the season so far, but they could also be without some key players come Thursday night.
Serge Ibaka will be serving the first of his three-game suspension after he and the Cavaliers' Marquese Chriss brawled on-court on Monday night.
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On top of that, Toronto could be without starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who was forced to leave Monday's game in Cleveland after twisting his left ankle.
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On Wednesday, Lowry insisted his ankle was fine and chances are the point guard will be fit to face the Lakers.
Key battle: LeBron James vs Kawhi Leonard
James and Leonard have a history. As a member of the San Antonio Spurs 'The Claw' went head to head with LeBron, who was then with the Miami Heat, in the 2014 NBA Finals and walked away as the MVP of the series.
In that famous series, Leonard restricted James to fewer shots, fewer touches and fewer drives to the basket. In an August 2016 interview with Slam magazine, James admitted that Leonard guards him better than any other NBA players.
While James has endured a turbulent first season in Los Angeles, Leonard has thrived as the Raptors No 1 offensive option, averaging 27.1 points per game and playing at an MVP-level for large stretches of the season.
It will be thrilling to see the outcome when the pair resume their head-to-head rivalry.
Last time out
33.4 - That's the Lakers' collective three-point field goal percentage for the season. It is a woeful figure and ranks second-worst in the NBA.
It also tells a tale of the botched roster construction that has cast a shadow over the Lakers' season. Surrounding James with shooters has always been the formula for him to thrive.
Thursday night's games
- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Indiana Pacers, 11pm
- Cleveland Cavaliers @ Orlando Magic, 11pm
- Sacramento Kings @ Boston Celtics. 11:30pm
- Los Angeles Lakers @ Toronto Raptors, 12am, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Minnesota Timberwolves @ Utah Jazz, 1am
- Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets, 2:30am
This season, in a league geared more than ever to three-point shooting, the Lakers' absence of a consistent threat from beyond the arc left them without the weapons to compete with the league's best teams.
One to watch (Lakers): Andre Ingram
Ingram could turn out to be one of the feel-good stories of the tail-end of the regular season. The 6fr 3in guard is a veteran of the G-League, the NBA's development league, where he has plied his trade for 12 seasons.
He was called up by the Lakers at the end of the 2017/18 season to become, at 32, the NBA's oldest rookie player since 1964. He drained four three-pointers en route to 19 points in his NBA debut.
Twelve months on, Ingram is back as a Laker and, given the team's injury plight, may see some playing time in Toronto.
One to watch (Raptors): Marc Gasol
Acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline, Gasol's passing vision, willingness to facilitate offense and quick decision-making have given the Toronto Raptors new dimensions on offense and defense as they approach the postseason.
Given the Raptors' roster depth, the demands on former Defensive Player of the Year Gasol are less than in Memphis and his diminished numbers reflect that. But with Ibaka suspended, the Spanish center could have a telling effect on this game.