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Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) drives to the basket while being defended by Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12). (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)
March 18th, 2022
A year ago at this time, LeBron James blasted the NBA for its new play-in tournament. "Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired," he boldly proclaimed. Twelve months later, the four-team tourney appears to be the Lakers’ only avenue to the postseason.
A lethal combination of injuries and poor roster management has Los Angeles precariously positioned in ninth place in the West, a staggering 26.5 games behind the conference-leading Suns. At this point in the year, the Lakers are closer to being eliminated from the playoffs than they are of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the 18th time in franchise history.
Things won’t get much easier tonight when LA visits the streaking Raptors in the not-so-friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena. Toronto has won five straight, and is within 6.5 games of first place in the Eastern Conference thanks to the club’s enviable team-first mentality and switchy top 10 defense.
That same tenacious D held the Lakers to 39% shooting from the floor in Toronto’s 114-103 win on Monday night. The Raps pounded the Lakers on the boards, 64-43, and also had their way in the paint, outscoring Los Angeles 54-36 near the hoop.
Will the Lakers reverse the script and pull off a Hollywood ending tonight, or will the credits mercifully start to roll on their disappointing campaign? Lakers vs. Raptors tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET, and we have the three best player prop bets below.
2021-22 has been a breakout year for Fred VanVleet, but the first time All-Star has been slowed recently by lingering knee issues. He missed five consecutive games from Feb. 28 to March 6 and met with a specialist earlier in the week for a thorough assessment.
🗣️ LET'S GO@pskills43 ➡️ @FredVanVleet pic.twitter.com/iLRnJA5Tmf— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 15, 2022
🗣️ LET'S GO@pskills43 ➡️ @FredVanVleet pic.twitter.com/iLRnJA5Tmf
The issue didn’t keep VanVleet out of the lineup against LA on Monday, but it did appear to slow him down. "Steady Freddy" scored just 11 points on 3-14 shooting from the floor and 2-12 from beyond the arc, and seemed to lack the burst needed to blow by defenders and get to the hole. It marked the third time in six games that VanVleet has scored 11 points or less, and it could be a trend as Toronto monitors his minutes in the lead-up to the playoffs.
Expect a far more efficient performance from the Raptors' lead guard tonight, but one that will go comfortably Under our oddsmakers’ projected point total.
Although VanVleet fell flat on Monday, Gary Trent Jr. was there to pick up the slack. The fifth-year shooting guard erupted for a team-high 28 points, including a season-high 11 makes from the charity stripe. His ability to get to the basket and draw contact was a big reason for Toronto’s victory, and has been part of a year-long trend that has seen him gradually increase his number of free throw attempts every month since December.
COUNT IT 😤 @gtrentjr pic.twitter.com/M95Rk2y3DE— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 15, 2022
COUNT IT 😤 @gtrentjr pic.twitter.com/M95Rk2y3DE
Even if Trent doesn’t make it to the line frequently tonight, he’s still a solid bet to surpass 20 points. The Duke product has topped that total 23 times this season, and is just four games removed from dropping 42 points on the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns in his finest performance of the season. Ride the Over as Trent torches LA’s 17th-ranked D.
Nobody will ever confuse Scottie Barnes for Ray Allen. The Raptors rookie attempted just 40 3-pointers in college and is launching just 2.5 bombs per game as a pro. However, he’s grown increasingly more comfortable from downtown as the season has progressed and is hitting 33% of his 3-point attempts since the All-Star break, compared to 31% before. He’s also nailed at least one trey in his last four games, including one against the Lakers on Monday.
Barnes will continue to do most of his damage less than 10 feet from the hoop, but count on him hitting one 3-pointer against the Lakers tonight.
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