Tonight the Los Angeles Lakers fly to Toronto and take on the one of the top Eastern Conference teams. The Toronto Raptors are on two game losing skid and will be without their point guard Kyle Lowry tonight. They have clinched a playoff seed and the team is looking to get Lowry healthy for the post-season rather than rush him back. The Raptors expect to be playing deep into the playoffs and a win tonight for them would help strengthen their seeding. Meanwhile the Lakers continue to tinker with their lineup as they prepare for a long-term rebuilding process.
Frontcourt: Jonas 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 12 points and 8.8 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 depend on Amir Johnson to fill the gaps. Johnson is an above average defender and all around hustle player who cleans up the glass and scores only sparingly.
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’s pours in 1.8 treys per game at a very respectable 37.8 percent clip. Ross doesn’t provide much for the Raptors besides scoring and Wesley Johnson should be a good matchup for him.
Backcourt: The brunt of the Raptors offense comes from their superb guards. Kyle Lowry will likely be out tonight due to back spasms and in his place Greivis Vasquez will start. Vasquez is a versatile guard who can orchestrate the offense in Lowry’s absence. He notched 22 points and six three-pointers on Wednesday night against the Bulls.
DeMar DeRozan leads the Raptors with 19.4 points per game and he’s on a streak of seven straight 20+ point games. He’s an athletically gifted guard who is also a superb defender. DeRozan shooting is streaky, but if the Lakers let him get hot though, he can go off for 30. He’s also very good about getting to the rim and drawing shooting fouls. DeRozan leads his team in free throws made (5.9 per game) and free throws attempted (7.1 per game). Backup guard Lou Williams plays a huge part in the Raptors offense. He is instant offense off the bench and has poured in 15.1 points and 1.8 treys per game in just 24 minutes of play.
Keys to Victory:
Lakers Guard Development: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin made history earlier this week by becoming the first pair of Asian Americans to start in the backcourt for an NBA team. In two starts together the duo have complemented each other well. They’re averaging 44 points combined through two games and the offense seems to flow better with two ball handling guards on the floor. Hopefully the pair can continue their strong play tonight and take advantage of the Raptors Lowry-less backcourt.
Develop Young Frontcourt: At this point in the season, the Lakers have conceded all hopes for this year and they’re clearly playing for the future. As such, Byron Scott has opted to sit Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill out in favor of giving Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black minutes. This is clearly the right move as the Lakers need to figure out who will be part of the rebuilding process going forward. The Lakers young frontcourt will get a good test against the Raptors solid big men.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-51) at Toronto Raptors (42-30)
4:30 PM PST, March 27, 2015
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TV: TWC SN, NBA TV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Raptors Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Greivis Vasquez
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Terrence Ross
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: F: Patrick Patterson G: Lou Williams
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Tarik Black
Steve Nash Retirement Press Conference (Part Two)