Raptors Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: James Johnson
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Aaron Gray
Key Reserves: G Leandro Barbosa, F Linas Kleiza
Raptors Injury Report: G Jarryd Bayless is day-to-day (sore left ankle), F Andrea Bargnani is out (stained left calf)
The Lakers look to end their Grammy road trip with a win by facing the Toronto Raptors for the only regular season matchup against the Raptors. The Lakers are 2-3 on this current road trip, with an overall road record of 4-10 thus far this season. The Toronto Raptors are coming off a huge win against the Boston Celtics on Friday, while the Lakers are coming off a disappointing loss against the New York Knicks. The Lakers are 24-6 all-time against the Raptors and have an 11-4 record against the Raptors when playing in Toronto.
Frontcourt: Toronto’s leading scorer, Andrea Bargnani (24 points per game), is out with a strained left calf. This is a huge advantage for the Lakers frontcourt on the defensive end. Amir Johnson is averaging 7 points per game on 55 percent shooting and 7 rebounds per game, which should allow Pau Gasol to easily control the boards and get his way on both ends of the court. Andrew Bynum should easily win the center matchup against Aaron Gray as he is averaging only 3 points and 6 boards per game. James Johnson is averaging 8 points per game, 5 rebounds per game and 3 turnovers per game. This may be a great opportunity for Metta World Peace to create steals and fast break opportunities, which the Lakers need.
Backcourt: Jose Calderon leads the Raptors in assists, which he averages 9 per game, to go along with 10 points per game. Look for Steve Blake to play most of the minutes at the point over Derek Fisher again in order to compete with Calderon’s speed. DeMar DeRozan is the second leading scorer on the Raptors with 15 points per game. Reserve guard, Leandro Barbosa, is adding 12 points per game off the bench. Linas Kleiza consistently puts up 10 points per game and grabs 4 boards each game. However, Kleiza is a player off the Raptors’ bench that can easily have huge games, as he did last Monday against the Wizards when he scored 30 points. The Lakers’ bench needs to watch out for Kleiza and don’t go to sleep on guarding him.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Control the Paint: Andrew Bynum recorded only three points on 1 for 8 shooting on Friday night against the New York Knicks. A big reason for his low shot percentage was that he given the ball out of position. In fact, the Knicks outscored the Lakers in the paint 38-22. Look for this to completely change today, as Bynum is essential for the Lakers’ offense. Both Pau Gasol and Bynum seem to step up their games when they have something to prove. After Friday’s tough loss when the Knick took over control of the paint, expect for the two seven footers to get more touches and opportunities to reclaim the paint.
Play with Energy: The game against Boston on last Thursday night was a tough, grueling, overtime win that seemed to drain the Lakers’ energy. Their lack of energy on the offensive and defensive end was on full display Friday night against the Knicks. After a day of rest, the Lakers need to play with a renewed sense of energy and urgency in order to compete for all four quarters without the Raptors taking advantage of a tired team that has been on the road for the past two weeks.
Limit Three-Point Attempts and Turnovers: The Lakers have a habit of shooting desperation three-pointers as a way to generate their offense. This is not their answer to score. They have two extremely talented seven footers, who most say makes up the best frontcourt in the league. This is one if not the biggest advantage for the Lakers, use it. On Friday’s loss, the Lakers were 6-24 from the three, while their overall three-point percentage is 28 for this season. Drive the ball, confuse the defense and don’t settle for shots beyond the perimeter. Another habit that has been reoccurring all season is their numbers of turnovers. The Lakers recorded 17 turnovers Friday night and have an average of 15 turnovers per game. If they control the ball, they can control the pace of the the game. Doing so will lead to the Lakers returning to LA with a victory.