The Toronto Raptors (12-9) look to get their first win of a current six game home stand that started with an upset loss to Denver and continued after coming up just short in a close 3 point loss to Golden State. Tonight for the final time this season they face the struggling Los Angeles Lakers. Lou Williams who won sixth man of the year last season while playing for Toronto will return to the Air Canada Centre for the first time. The Raptors will most likely line up the same way they did against the Warriors two nights ago.
Expect Lucas Nogueira to continue receiving increased minutes as he plays back up centre to Bismack Biyombo while Jonas Valanciunas remains out due to a hand injury. An injury he sustained in the first match up with the Lakers this season. Toronto has dropped to 7th in the surprisingly tight Eastern Conference after two straight losses while their opponents remain the cellar dwellers in the West. The Lakers come into the game on the second of a back to back which started with a 20 point loss in Detroit.
NBA veteran Kobe Bryant announced his retirement early last week so this will be his final game in Toronto.
Cage’s keys to the game.
The past few games have seen the Raptors dig themselves into a difficult hole that they have not always gotten out of. When playing against both Golden State and Denver a poor start meant the Raptors were playing catch up early and went on to lose as a result. The Lakers have also been getting off to slow starts the past few game so getting out of the block first can allow the Raptors to establish an early hold on the game and hopefully put it to bed. The last thing they want to do is give a team like the Lakers a chance to stick around.
Battle of the boards
The Lakers have some depth and strength in their big men. Centre Roy Hibbert was their biggest signing this off season and Julius Randle is the team leader in rebounds, while Brandon Bass is also capable of making an impact off the bench. LA averages 43.6 rebounds per game to the Raptors 44.5, with Valanciunas still missing Bismack Biyombo and Lucas Nogueira will have a key job in pulling down the boards and reducing the impact of the Lakers big men.
Watch out for Lou
Former Raptors guard Lou Williams was the Lakers top scorer in their past two games with 21 against Detroit and 18 in Atlanta. It would not be surprising for him to have another big night in the building he called home last season. DeMarre Carroll is expected to have the job on Bryant so it will most likely be Kyle Lowry and Corey Joseph who match up with the reigning sixth man of the year.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
Starting point guard Kyle Lowry is in hot form, most recently
coming off an incredible duel against league MVP Steph Curry. When the teams met earlier this season it was Lowry who led the way with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He’s continuing to show himself as an elite point guard. Tonight, matched up against D’Angelo Russell gives Lowry another big chance for to just go all out.
The Raptors guard averages 22 points and 6 assists per game and put in 41 two nights ago. In the past six games his averaging 47.7% from the field and 43.4%beyond the arc, so as the iron is hot its time to strike.