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LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers visit high-flying Toronto Raptors

Watch Los Angeles Lakers @ Toronto Raptors live on Sky Sports Arena late of Thursday night (midnight)

Friday 15 March 2019 04:16, UK

Kawhi Leonard celebrates after he scoring his first points of the night against the San Antonio Spurs
Image: Kawhi Leonard celebrates scoring against his former team the San Antonio Spurs

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.

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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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Hawks @ Celtics free on Sky Sports

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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.

Lonzo Ball in possession during the game against the Dallas Mavericks
Image: Lonzo Ball in action prior to his season-ending injury

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.

Cavs Raptors fight 0:44
Serge Ibaka and Marquese Chriss were ejected for fighting during the Cavaliers’ 126-101 victory over the Raptors

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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NBA Primetime on Sky Sports

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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

LeBron James lays the ball home against Chicago
Image: LeBron James lays the ball home against Chicago

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

LA Chicago 1:55
Highlights of the Los Angeles Lakers' 123-107 win over the Chicago Bulls
preview image 1:41
Highlights of the Toronto Raptors' surprise 126-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Numbers game

Kyle Kuzma scores with a finger roll
Image: Kyle Kuzma scores with a finger roll

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

Andre Ingram receives congratulations after making his NBA debut as a 32-year-old
Image: Andre Ingram receives congratulations after making his NBA debut as a 32-year-old

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

Marc Gasol high-fives Raptors team-mate Fred VanVleet
Image: Marc Gasol high-fives Raptors team-mate Fred VanVleet

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.

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