The (2-9) Los Angeles Lakers, fifth place in the Pacific Division, host the (7-6) Toronto Raptors, first-place in the Atlantic Division, at the Staples Center in the first of a two game home stand. Toronto is looking to snap a three-game losing skid, led by Brandon Knight’s triple-double and allowing 18 offensive rebounds, the Lakers outscored 40-26 in the fourth quarter, fell to the Suns 120-101. Los Angeles has lost five of their last six games. Los Angeles leads the all-time series against Toronto 28-9, 15-3 at Staples Center and 13-6 at the Air Canada Centre.
Although the Lakers split the season series against the Raptors in 2014; in addition, the teams have split nine season series while the Lakers swept the other team. The Lakers are 12-3 all-time against the Raptors at the Staples Center. In 31 career games (27 starts), Kobe Bryant has averaged 27.7 points against the Raptors; furthermore nine years ago January 22nd, 2006, it is impossible to forget that the killer snake made an appearance, a 27-year old ‘Black Mamba’ dropped 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, second only to Wilt Chamberlain in NBA history.
Reminiscing, besides, two facts that somehow get lost when discussing this bit of NBA history; first, Kobe in his prime leading the NBA in scoring, posted 24 first half-points and the Lakers trailed 63-49, then Bryant’s 57-point second half eruption. Second, the rest of the Lakers scored 41 points total.
Returning to present, offensively the Raptors rank 13th in the NBA, on average scoring 101.6 points per game. Defensively, Toronto ranks eighth in the league, allowing an average of 98.2 points per game. Toronto is also the 10th ranked rebounding team in the league averaging 45.3 rebounds per game.
DeMar DeRozen, the former USC Trojan, from Compton recently put Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on a poster as well as provided an early dunk of the year candidate submission. DeRozen leads the Raptors in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game. Toronto’s veteran backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen on average, post a statistic line that includes 41.1 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, 3.93 steals while shooting 42-percent from the field. Los Angeles seeks to avenge a 93-84 loss, on March 27th, to the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre and with the win Toronto won the Atlantic Division.
Lou Williams, then a Raptor combined with James Johnson to score 35 points off the bench to contribute to the win. Los Angeles also lost to Toronto, 105-97, in the preseason, Kyle Lowry scored 25 points led the Raptors in scoring, Lou Williams scored 19 against his former team and Julius Randle scored 17 points for the Lakers. Head Coach Byron Scott must alter his rotations; initially D’Angelo Russell needs to play the entire game and Coach Scott must live with the amorphous growing pains. The Lakers and their fans would love to see squad become an active, suffocating group of kleptomaniacs on the court, the reality is until taught, repeatedly studied and allowed to work on the task together the desired skill set will remain non-existent or better yet a work in progress.
We’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous on this issue it is beyond unconscionable. In conclusion hearing Coach Scott state that “the players need to man up” or alluding that D’Angelo Russell’s defense is what is causing him to sit in the fourth quarter falls on deaf ears when we all witness Marcelo Huertas, a talented offensive player, continuously crossed over, ankles broken, as if opponents saw a ‘shake well’ sign on his jersey instead of a number.
Huertas has found himself in way too many highlights, for the wrong reason, shaken so badly that if the play starts on 1111 South Figueroa Huertas, shaken out of the area code so badly that he finds himself in Santa Monica still in search of the ball handler. For now it is hard to sell the idea that D’Angelo Russell would not perform better or learn from the experience. Larry Nance Jr. is a player with ‘the knack’, best described as the instinct and ability to move to the right place at the right time. It behooves the Lakers to play Nance Jr. more minutes.
Nance’s length, activity and ability on defense should earn increased playing time. It is imperative that the purple and gold take care of the ball, limit their turnovers, likewise dramatically improve their shot selection, collectively box out their men and rebound. The Lakers need to utilize good ball movement and better player movement to find a high percentage shot attacking the basket. For example, the Lakers must start their offense below the free throw line, their post players need must receive the ball in the painted area. Finally, the Lakers need to communicate on defense; collectively get back in transition, stop the ball, do a solid job defending the screen and roll play, limit the Raptors to one shot per possession, box out, rebound, challenge every shot and quickly rotate out to open shooters.
Lakers: D. Russell, J. Clarkson, K. Bryant, J. Randle, R. Hibbert
Raptors: K. Lowry, D. DeRozen, D. Carroll, L. Scola, J. Valanciunas
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: TWC Sportsnet (Bill MacDonald & Stu Lantz)
• Toronto: TSN (Matt Devlin & Greorge Armstrong)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Toronto : CJCL (Eric Smith & Paul Jones)
• Kobe Bryant (Sore Back & Knee) Day-to-Day
• Terrance Ross (Left Thumb) Out