It’s a sad fact that this game, which should be a highlight of the season, has lost much of its buzz. Both teams have disappointing
records, but the Los Angeles Lakers have been the bigger flop. In fact, it’s hard to think of a team in any sport which has perplexed and dismayed its legion of worldwide fans more than this year’s Lakers.
Los Angeles’ General Manager, Mitch Kupchak, knew his squad was in difficulty early in the season after dropping four of its first five games. He moved quickly, chopping the coach, Mike Woodson, and brought in Mike D’Antoni, after being spurned by ex-coach Phil Jackson. With a lineup of All-Stars like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, one would think a fire hydrant could coach his way to 50 wins. Not so fast – at this point, the Lakers are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers are the new It team in Southern California, which is revolutionary.
D’Antoni made his bones as the coach of the Phoenix Suns, where he developed the “Seven Seconds or Less” offense. This batch of aging Lakers couldn’t be more different than the Sprintin’ Suns (I just made that up) and D’Antoni has struggled to craft a winning rotation. Pau Gasol has been the odd man out recently, and has been sitting down in many fourth quarters. He has expressed his dissatisfaction with his role, and with the idea of being yanked from the starting lineup. The Lakers have also been hamstrung by injuries to Nash and Howard, both of whom have returned, but haven’t brought wins with them.
The Toronto Raptors can, and should, be able to outrun LA. They will need to attack Howard, in the hope of getting him in foul trouble. He’s still dismal at the free throw line, so watch for lots of tackling by our bigs when he snares an offensive rebound. All that said, the biggest question will be whether Kobe is on his game or not. He’s the epitome of a volume shooter, and he’s hellish difficult to stop, as befits one of the best players of all time.
The Raps have just endured two bitterly disappointing overtime losses. Mercifully the team appears to have done so without further injury, but their mood must be dark. Let’s hope our guys can bounce back and give the home fans a win. I think they will, by a 98-91 count.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.