The Los Angeles Lakers are a legitimate title favorite, and they'll get to see how they stack up against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in an epic showdown in Orlando on Saturday.
This prime-time clash of NBA titans is the classic "measuring stick" contest. Does Toronto legitimately still have the chops to hang with the West's best even without Kawhi Leonard? Can L.A. avoid a letdown after defeating Kawhi's Clippers on Thursday?
It's an absolutely fascinating matchup in a variety of ways, so dive deeper into Raptors-Lakers with abe Insights' betting preview for wagers analysis, the best odds and advanced stats to help elevate your gambling upside.
Date: Saturday, August 1
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Raptors 40%; Lakers 61%
Spread: LAL -3.5
Moneyline: TOR +150; LAL -158
Anthony Davis showed no ill effects against the Clippers after getting poked in the eye last weekend, so no worries on that front. However, the Lakers are still without two key members of their backcourt. Rajon Rondo is recovering from a fractured thumb, and Avery Bradley opted out of Orlando.
There aren't any significant injuries or absences on the Raptors roster to speak of. Coach Nick Nurse's squad is full of hungry, athletic, high-effort and high-basketball IQ players who have a big chip on their shoulder to prove they're still here.
28.3 vs. 25.9: Second-chance points are critical in presumably tight battles like this one. That's where LA's eighth-ranked offensive rebounding percentage, compared to Toronto's rank of 22nd, could be a big deciding factor.
16.6 vs. 12.6: If there's one clear area the Lakers could improve in, it's transition defense. They're 29th in the Association in points per game yielded on fast breaks. The Raptors are No. 8 in this category, so they should get out and run on L.A. to try to seize some momentum.
73.5 vs. 71.5: Crashing the glass is a must in order to get out in transition, though, and Toronto struggles in that regard, with the latter figure reflecting its defensive rebound percentage. That ranks 25th in the NBA, compared to the Lakers' standing of 12th.
How about some bonus numbers to start? Let's go with .440 versus .643. Those are the winning percentages for the Raptors and Lakers in 25 and 28 games respectively against teams with a winning record in 2019-20.
Now, Toronto is probably aware of this, and before its championship breakthrough in last year's Finals, the franchise couldn't get over the hump in the East. No matter how well the regular season went, even getting the top seed, there was no advancing through the conference.
Times have changed, and the underdogs are going to be just a little motivated to show their adversary — and the basketball world — they're for real. And they have a real chance to make some noise in the Orlando opener. Bear in mind the Raptors are a little better-settled than most squads at Disney, because they were the first visiting team to arrive.
It goes beyond embracing the bubble campus for a lengthier time. Very few teams have anyone who can adequately defend LA's Davis, but Toronto happens to have one of those rare athletes in rising superstar Pascal Siakam. In lieu of Leonard, Siakam has emerged as the go-to guy, erupting for career-highs in points (23.6), rebounds (7.5) and assists (3.6). Serge Ibaka and even Marc Gasol can chip in on fronting Davis, too, in case Siakam is tasked with marking LeBron more often.
The Raptors have additional length on the wing with OG Anunoby most notably. There's lots of depth and fresh bodies to throw at L.A., along with cagey veteran point guard Kyle Lowry to run the show. Lowry, Anunoby and Siakam can all guard LeBron in different ways, which will make for a real challenge for The King.
Even if its performance when facing better teams has been mediocre, there's plenty of reason to believe Toronto is legit at No. 2 in the East.
Even with all that working in the Raptors' favor, data from TeamRankings.com reveals the Lakers are 28-20-1 against the spread coming off a win. That 58.3% success clip is fourth league-wide, so expect most of the action on the Lakers to cover.
It's not the most rewarding hedge tactic to take the Raptors as outright winners, so bettors are more likely to double down on the Los Angeles moneyline if anything.
Since these are the two stingiest defenses when it comes to points per game allowed, the total more or less reflects that. Expect wagers to go toward the Under, given how reminiscent of a playoff atmosphere this one figures to be.
Note: Odds current as of 10:00 a.m. ET on August, July 1.
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