Raptors’ Leonard questionable to play vs. James, Lakers
A rare matchup between the All-Stars would certainly take center stage when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Sunday, but Leonard became a question mark when he limped off the court late in Toronto’s 107-98 victory at the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren gave hope when he told the Southern California News Group that Leonard looked good during practice Saturday after jamming his foot the night before.
“They’ll evaluate him and talk to him, and he’s smart and experienced and knows his body better than anybody,” Bjorkgren said.
Leonard was already expected to sit out Monday’s game at the Utah Jazz, just as he’s done in the second game of the other two back-to-backs this season, but the injury may cause the Raptors to flip-flop that plan.
The Raptors (8-1) would still be a tough matchup for the Lakers, even without Leonard.
Kyle Lowry leads the NBA at 11.2 assists per game. He has reached double digits in assists in a career-high seven straight games, tying the franchise record set by Damon Stoudamire from March 15-26, 1996.
A win by the Raptors would also give them their best 10-game start in franchise history. The current mark is 8-2 to open 2014-15.
The Lakers (4-5) took the court Saturday night for the first time since reports surfaced that coach Luke Walton was under pressure to increase his win total. They then won at the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time since March 4, 2014.
James sat out the final 4:35 of the third quarter and had the chance to sit out the entire fourth, but re-entered with 8:26 left and the Lakers leading by 20. He was still on the floor as Portland got as close as five with 1:03 left, but made two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining to secure the 114-110 win.
As the Lakers try to win three in a row for the first time this season, point guard Rajon Rondo told Sportsnet that there’s only one way to stay on a roll.
“Just keep getting better,” Rondo said. “Each day we’re going to continue to work. We’re going to watch film, probably (Sunday) morning, and get rid of this game and then go move on Toronto.”
Los Angeles lost five of its first seven games all by single digits and three of those defeats were by four points or fewer.
They barely hung on to beat the visiting Dallas Mavericks 114-113 on Wednesday after nearly blowing a 13-point lead with just over three minutes left.
Many have speculated that Leonard will play for the Lakers next season. The Southern California native signed a one-year contract with the Raptors after his trade from the San Antonio Spurs in July and will become an unrestricted free agent after this season.