The Toronto Raptors play their third and final West Coast game of this trip, having lost the first two. The Lake Show is handling the non-appearances of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash far better than I would have expected. Coach Mike D’Antoni has silenced most of his seemingly countless detractors by carving out a strong rotation featuring Jordan Hill (a huge and pleasant surprise), Steve Blake (a career backup point guard who’s been dishing and scoring), and the aging-well Pau Gasol. Jodie Meeks has contributed 3-point shooting and defense.
You can find Raptors @ Lakers tickets here.
The Raps can salvage something from this wretched road trip, and grab a win, if they:
- Get the ball inside. What else is new? If Toronto wants to win, Jonas Valanciunas has to be much more than an offensive afterthought. Coach Dwane Casey needs to face the facts squarely – everybody and his dog Spot knows the Raps offense flows through Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, and game-plans accordingly. To no one’s surprise, except our coach, we keep losing. JV is capable and strong, and can back down Gasol or Hill on the low block. Kyle Lowry needs to set the tone early with entry passes.
- Pressure their ball handlers. The Lakers are winning despite a number of statistical anomalies, like giving up a lot of steals. I’ve always liked Blake, who’s stayed a long time in the NBA without any physical gifts but a fine mind. However, Kyle Lowry has quick hands, and can and should make Blake’s life difficult.
- Get to the basket. Another motherhood statement, perhaps, but relevant in the case of a foul-prone Lakers defense. Several of their big men are banged up, which should render them a step late in stopping DD or Kyle.
[20-second timeout: Kobe has pronounced himself ready to play, and will presumably make his season debut off the bench. Robert Sacre is listed as the starting centre, further proof of LA's injury woes. While Kobe has annihilated the Raps in the past, it's hard to imagine him being in mid-season form, or being allowed more than 20 minutes of playing time. Sacre, the pride of North Vancouver, BC, shouldn't be able to stop JV. On balance, I don't think these late roster moves will have a significant impact on the game.]
While I’m far from confident in this prediction, I will venture the optimist’s view that the Raps are due to play a 48-minute game, finally. I think they can send the STAPLES Center crowd home disappointed, by hanging on for a 97-95 victory.
Brian Boake is Senior 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.