The Toronto Raptors, having tossed the dead weight of a 5-game losing streak off their back in Phoenix, visit the City of Angels for a battle with the streaking Lakers. Kobe Bryant and his mates are making a determined push for a playoff berth, after having been an immense disappointment all season. The Lake Show has won seven of their last ten, including a ridiculous victory in New Orleans in which they outscored the home team 33-9 in the fourth quarter to wipe out an 18-point deficit. The Lakers tried to rally in a similar fashion in Toronto in January, and shaved a 19-point Raps lead to six, but ran out of time.
Can Toronto claim its first victory on the Lakers’ home court since 2001? Perhaps, if they do the following:
- Make Kobe work hard on defense. The man (or should it be The Man?) is 34, and still pouring in points from everywhere on the court. Can the taller Rudy Gay pop in some jumpers or drive on him? If those two can battle each other to a standstill, that will be huge. When Rudy is having a breather, Landry Fields should be able to bother Kobe, at a minimum.
- Run – all night. Guys like Steve Nash and Metta World Peace are old and slow. If our guys can keep Dwight Howard from dominating the offensive boards, and get some odd-man-advantage fast break buckets, we can hurt this team.
- Get production from the second unit. Sebastian Telfair, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross played critical roles in Phoenix, providing both points and defense. The Lakers have promoted Earl Clark to the starting five, due to Pau Gasol’s injury. Their second unit features few big men as a result, so we can hope that Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson will have significant opportunities to score inside and out.
This game will be a dogfight. The Lakers are breathing down the necks of the Utah Jazz for the #8 spot in the West, and will be highly motivated in their home building. I expect the Raps will feature a tag-team of Jonas Valanciunas and Aaron Gray playing “Hack-a-Dwight” in an attempt to limit the damage Howard can do. If that succeeds (spoiler alert: ugly basketball ahead), and Kobe doesn’t run amuck, the Raps will win 105-102.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.