Tonight the Toronto Raptors are in action tonight as they face the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s truly disappointing that All-Star DeMar DeRozan won’t go head to head with his hometown hero Kobe Bryant. James Johnson is likely to start in his place, shifting Terrence Ross down. The Raptors will attempt to avenge their 106-102 lost this past Friday at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks without his services.
This game marks the first of three on the road for Toronto. The last time they saw Kobe Bryant in LA they came away with a huge victory. This was the same night the Raptors sent away Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray. That was also a day that Kobe made a much anticipated return to action from his achilles injury and took an L. The Raptors are still atop the East and take on a Lakers team that’s a shell of their formers selves. However, this Los Angeles team will compete until the end with Kobe and his bad self.
Cages Keys to the Game:
Still Gotta Stop that Man
Kobe! His will to win is second to none in this league. Terrence Ross will have his hands full tonight guarding Kobe Bryant. The Raptors must be ready to help, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can really do if Kobe does…you know. Kobe stuff. Kobe’s averages are right up with his career numbers (26pts, 4ast, 5reb), so don’t expect anything but the best from one of the all time greats.
With the absence of DeRozan, Toronto will have to step it up big time. Kyle Lowry will attempt to take the burden of DeRozan’s missing offence in the big lights of LA if the ball starts to stick. This fate must be avoided as Lowry is a much needed piece of this team and can’t afford to get banged up to start this road trip. Lowry goes too hard, but if the Raps get the ball moving and everyones involved and in the flow, than Lowry will defer to teammates like Greivis Vasquez and Ross who are capable of putting up numbers when their confidence is high. Not trying to say that these guys are expendable, but Lowry is the head of the snake for the Raptors.
Dominate the Paint
This applies on a both ends of the floor. The Lakers don’t have any legitimate rim protectors besides former Raptor Ed Davis. The Lakers also rank last in the NBA for points allowed per game (111.4), and also the third worst team in points in the paint allowed per game. They also aren’t very good at getting points in the paint ranking only 20th in the NBA. The Raptors will need to look to their bigs tonight as they will be essential in the raptors securing a win in Los Angeles. Amir Johnson is coming off a strong 20 point performance in his last game, hopefully he’ll have the offensive touch in his hometown tonight.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
Tonight’s X-Factor will Raptors swingman Terrence Ross. Not only will he be needed to excel tonight on the defensive end against probably the most difficult matchup of his life – a healthy Kobe. Ross will also need to get going early, by moving without the ball and making Kobe work as that’s the likely head-to-head matchup. If Ross is smart and aggressive tonight, he’ll have the opportunities to create a huge impact in this game.