Pre-Game: Coming off of a blowout win against the Suns, the Toronto Raptors (24-38) now come into an extremely tough game. The Los Angeles Lakers have been on a tear as of late behind the face of the franchise, Kobe Bryant. They are also coming off a tremendous 20-point comeback effort against the Hornets. The Raptors played a much different Lakers team mentally when they won at home earlier in the season. The Lakers have found a new chemistry and are seriously pushing for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference; the Raps are in for an intense one.
The Cage’s 5 Key’s to the game
1. Bite the Head of the Mamba!
Two words. Kobe Bryant. He’s been averaging 33.6 points over his last 5 games and playing some of the best basketball of his career. He’s single handedly willed his team back into the playoff hunt. He’s also single handedly willed himself into MVP conversation, again.
2. Crash the Glass
Dwight Howard is coming off a very strong game posting a 20 & 15 performance. Boxing him out is essential in the Raptors having any hope in this matchup. Jonas Valanciunas and Aaron Gray will have their hands full again.
3. True Grit
Last time these teams met, the Raptors were able to get under the skin of the Lakers, frustrating them and forcing them into forced offensive opportunities. Lets see the Raptors do the same thing again tonight and get the Lakers offensive weapons off their sweet spots. Maybe Dwight will get an another ejection, but you can only wish.
4. Step It Up
Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay are going to have to step it up tonight going head to head with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. If Rudy plans to be the star he claims he wants to be he’s going to have to guard Kobe tonight. The stage is his, but the question is will he step up to the challenge and steal the show in Hollywood?
5. Run the Floor
We may not have the star power that the Lakers possess, however star power only runs so deep. The Raptors need to keep the game up-tempo from the tip off. They’ve come off an emotional game so the tempo needs to be dictated early before skill and veteran poise become factor late in the game.
X-Factor: Amir Johnson
Tonight’s X-Factor is Raptors big Amir Johnson. After coming off a strong performance in Phoenix, he heads back to his home to play in front of family and friends. DeMar DeRozan isn’t the only Los Angeles native on the team, so expect Amir to have some extra something in his step. Amir wants to be a star, and Hollywood is the place to do it.