The Toronto Raptors will try to extend their five-game winning streak and improve their playoff position when they return home for a rematch with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
The Raptors completed a six-game road trip Wednesday with a 103-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. That completed a Los Angeles sweep after a 114-103 wire-to-wire win over the stumbling Lakers on Monday.
The Raptors have the same record (39-30) as the sixth-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference and play nine of their final 13 regular-season games at home. The Cavaliers and Raptors are two games behind the Chicago Bulls, though Cleveland holds the tiebreaker over Toronto.
“I look at [the standings] a lot, it’s kind of fun,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game on Wednesday. “Try to look through and see what’s happening. I’m not going crazy about it or losing any sleep about it but I think it’s interesting.”
Pascal Siakam had 31 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday for Toronto and has scored at least 20 points in a career-best eight consecutive games.
The Lakers opened a four-game trip with a 124-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. It was the third straight loss for the Lakers, who have dropped their past 11 away games and are 9-23 for the season on the road.
The Lakers shot 41.9 per cent (39 of 93) from the field, including 22.2 per cent (10 of 45) from three-point range. They trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half.
Minnesota led 31-17 after the first quarter in which Los Angeles shot 28.6 per cent (6 of 21) from the field, including 0 of 10 in three-point attempts.
“At the end of the day, you keep pushing forward,” said LeBron James, who scored 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting from the field. “I am very comfortable with being uncomfortable so, it doesn’t bother me too much. Obviously, I am a competitor, I want to win. You definitely get frustrated with some things that happen on the floor, but you control what you can control. What you can’t control, you don’t worry about it.”
The Raptors’ road trip was impressive. They dropped the opener at Cleveland on March 6, then defeated the San Antonio Spurs, the league-leading Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets before their wins in Los Angeles.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are learning how to win and we have a lot of guys that know how to win,” said Fred VanVleet, who scored 21 points on Wednesday. “And mixing those two together, it’s been fun this year. I like where we are. Our group is definitely growing and we have a lot to be excited about.”
Impressive rookie Scottie Barnes added 15 points for Toronto on Wednesday.