The Lakers are in the midst of a four game losing streak and are searching for a win. They’re coming off a heart breaking one point loss to the Timberwolves. Unfortunately, things won’t get any easier tonight since they are facing the East’s best. The Toronto Raptors have been on a tear this year and sit comfortably atop the weak Eastern Conference with a record of 13-3. They finished with the third best record in the East last year and are building on that campaign. The Lakers will surely have their hands full tonight despite DeMar DeRozan being out indefinitely with a torn left adductor longus tendon.
Frontcourt: Valanciunas, the Raptors starting center, was once thought to be the next foreign superstar. So far he’s plugged in as a solid role player with averages of 11.9 points and 8.3 boards per game. He’s a high percentage shooter from the field and from the free throw line but he doesn’t typically take many shots per game. Valanciunas is susceptible on the defensive end so the Raptors look to Amir Johnson to fill the gaps. Johnson is a big man defensive specialist. Despite being slightly undersized for a power forward, he leads the team with 1.3 blocks.
At small forward the Raptors start Terrence Ross who is a high flying act. Ross has found his niche as a three point specialist. He leads the team with 1.9 treys per game at a very respectable 41.9 percent.
Backcourt: The brunt of the Raptors offense comes from their superb point guard. Kyle Lowry is the floor general and may be one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA. Lowry may not have tons of flash or amazing physical gifts, but he is very talented. Lowry is averaging 18.6 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. It’s quite amazing that the six-foot Lowry is third on his team in rebounding. Lowry uses his body well and consistently does a great job of out muscling opposing point guards.
Backup guard Lou Williams plays a huge part in the Raptors offense with DeRozan out. He is instant offense off the bench and has poured in 14.3 points and 1.7 treys per game in just 20 minutes of play. Think of him as the Raptors’ “Nick Young.”
Keys to Victory:
Defense: The biggest issue for the Lakers this year has been their defense. They are flat out last in the league in terms of defensive efficiency which accounts for the pace of the game. They give up 114 points per 100 possessions. The second worst team is better by almost three points per possession. Contrasted with the Raptors, who give up just 100.9 points per 100 possessions, the Lakers defense looks like a sieve. The problem is two-fold – the guards have been pretty terrible in containing their man from penetrating. Once an opposing player gets into the paint, the team collapses into the paint leaving the three-point line wide open. The Lakers give up 10.2 threes per game on 40 percent shooting which is second worst in the NBA. This defensive weakness is mainly due to the coaching philosophy of Byron Scott. But it’s also out of necessity since the Lakers don’t have a strong rim protector on their roster. So in summary the on-ball defense needs to improve and Byron Scott needs to figure out a better strategy for defending the three-point line.
Continued Offensive Balance: The Lakers offense has been pretty good in recent games. Kobe is sharing the ball and has also been more selective with his shots. Multiple players are getting involved – notably Jeremy Lin , Nick Young and Jordan Hill. They need to continue to share the ball on offense and not rely solely on Kobe to carry the scoring load.
Toronto Raptors (13-3) at Los Angeles Lakers (3-13)
6:30 PM PST, November 30, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Raptors Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Terrence Ross
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: F: Patrick Patterson PG: Greivis Vasquez
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
Nick Young After Lakers Loss, ‘They Got Us Playing Sporadic And It Looked Terrible’