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Raptors aim to bounce back against Lakers Friday on TSN

Fred VanVleet Toronto Raptors Dennis Schroder Los Angeles Lakers Fred VanVleet Dennis Schroder - Cole Burston/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors wrap up their five-game road trip Friday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers as the regular season enters its final month.

Losers of two straight, Toronto enters play Friday at 32-35, clinging to the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference by a half game. While they trail the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks by a game and a half, the Raps are also only a game and a half clear of 11th -- outside the play-in range -- and two games out of 12th. 

Watch Friday's matchup against the Lakers LIVE on TSN1, TSN4, and the TSN App at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT. 

The Raptors split a pair of games against the Washington Wizards in D.C. to start the road trip but dropped a close one in Denver Monday night and followed that up with an eight-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. 

Officiating was a storyline in both games, and not in the Raptors' favour. 

Referee Scott Foster ejected Scottie Barnes after a foul call on teammate Jakob Poeltl in a one-point game against the Nuggets for using verbiage that “directly questioned the integrity of the crew.”

“I was just saying something to myself and I guess he took offense to it, so just kicked me out of the game,” Barnes said.

The call sent Canadian Jamal Murray to the line where he sunk the free throw to make it 115-113 for the Nuggets with 28.1 seconds to play. Denver would go on to score the final three points of the game and hold on for a five-point win. 

Despite the loss, head coach Nick Nurse said he was pleased with his team's effort.

“We play like that, we’re probably going to be able to beat anybody,” Nurse said. “We probably outplayed them and executed really well and all those things. We just didn’t quite get it done at the very, very end.”

Two nights later, point guard Fred VanVleet was extremely critical of official Ben Taylor, who handed the scrappy guard a technical foul in the third quarter of a 108-100 defeat.

“I don’t mind it. I’ll take the fine. I don’t really care. I thought Ben Taylor was f****** terrible tonight," VanVleet said. "I think that most nights, you know out of the three, there’s one or two that just [mess] the game up. It’s been like that a couple of games in a row. Denver was tough, obviously.

"You come out tonight, competing pretty hard and I get a [lousy] tech that changes the whole dynamic of the game, changed the whole flow of the game.”

The league fined VanVleet $30,000 on Thursday for the comments. 

Friday's matchup is also a big one for the Lakers, who occupy the ninth spot in the Western Conference but are just a half game from dropping out of the play-in altogether. 

They will be without superstar LeBron James for the sixth straight game as he continues to sit with a left foot injury. 

Coming off two straight wins, L.A. has gotten elevated play from forward Anthony Davis. Playing four of the five games since James went down, Davis is averaging 33.8 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting north of 55 per cent from the field during that span. 

This will be the second and final meeting between the Raps and Lakers as Toronto picked up a 126-113 win at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 7. VanVleet and Pascal Siakam led the Raps with 25 apiece while James and Davis each sat out with injury.