The Toronto Raptors cap off a three game home-stand against the Los Angeles Lakers, who surprisingly have been a team that has given the Raptors a ton of trouble; however, in this meeting, Kobe Bryant – who threw in a triple-double in their last meeting – is out with injury. On the downside, Kyle Lowry is also out indefinitely due to re-aggravating the back spasms.
The Raptors (42-30) are struggling, and by no means have showed signs of any positive basketball. Tonight is a game where they cannot take their foot off the gas pedal, being the Lakers (19-51) are a team that has given the Raptors numbers in the past two seasons. Hopefully, the Raptors show signs of defending like they were at the start of the season, and moving the ball the way that made them successful in the past.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
1. Defend the Perimeter
The Lakers are absolutely dangerous on the perimeter, with tons of outside shooters, and a deadly scorer in Nick Young – a player who has given serious trouble to the Raptors last two seasons – they have to apply constant defensive pressure to make sure every shot they get was worked incredibly hard for.
With absolutely no inside presence defensively, the Raptors have to take advantage of the small, un-intimidating Laker bigs. Not only should they be constantly looking to throw that ball in Jonas Valanciunas, but every Raptor player should be making a concerted effort to stepping foot in that paint. The Raptors have been throwing games away with poor shot selection, and taking way too many jump-shots, especially ones that have been contested. Anything right beside the basket is not a bad shot, especially when there’s always a chance of drawing a foul, and getting to the free-throw line; one of the Raptors’ strengths.
3. Dig Deep
The Raptors have been hit with a ton of adversity, whether it be from the media, their fans, their own players, and the clash between coaching decisions and player decisions i.e. Lou Williams’ shot vs. Dwane Casey‘s “pick-&-roll” play call at the end. This is a game where the Raptors just have find a way to get this win, whether it be outstanding offence, going back to their defensive principles, or more preferably, both. It’s a good chance for the Raptors to get back to their basics, and find a groove as they hope to still finish the season with 50 wins.
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
There’s not a single player on that Laker roster that can guard DeMar, who has been having some really impressive floor games rebounding, and finding his team-mates. This’ll be a game in which he can find a groove offensively, establish some efficiency, and punish the poor perimeter defenders the Lakers possess. However, for DeRozan to be effective, he’s got to set-up in the low-post, attack the rim, or get those mid-ranged shots within the flow and play-calling of the offence.