On Tap: The Toronto Raptors

 —  February 26, 2005

Let me say up front who I’m rooting for today: Sideways. Much like rooting for this year’s edition of the Lakers, I know my choice is not going to get the big trophy in the end (well, maybe for adapted screenplay, but that’s about like making the playoffs in the NBA). That said, I like character driven movies and comedies that are unconventional, and this was both. It was subtle, a word rarely used in Hollywood. Now that I’ve said my piece, let the Aviator steamroll begin.

This morning it is breakfast with the Lakers (10 a.m. start on the West Coast). It’s hard to be optimistic about a three-game East Coast/Canada road swing after the way we were crushed by Detroit. That said, the fans of the Raptors aren’t that optimistic right now either. There’s this recent quote from one of the better NBA blogs, Raptor blog:

(Toronto GM) Rob Babcock didn’t make a deal (at the trading deadline). This is not really surprising since other GMs were likely trying to convince Rob to trade a quarter for two dimes after the Vince Carter trade. So we’re stuck with this subpar lineup for another 30 games and then Donyell Marshall will roll out of Toronto. Anyone else feeling nostalgic for the Glen Grunwald era?

The last time these two met was late December and the Lakers won handily in a game where they shot 52.7% (eFG%) as a team and Kobe scored 45 (shooting 61.5%). That shouldn’t come as a big surprise: Toronto is the 24th in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 105 points per 100 possessions and letting teams shoot 49.4% against them on the season (23rd in the league). (Before you Laker fans get too cocky, remember we are 23rd in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 104.8 points per 100 possessions.) This also is a game Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm could go big — the four and the five are the two places the Raptors have been weakest defensively (17.3 and 18.7 opponents PER, respectively). In addition, the Raptors give up a lot of offensive rebounds (they are 22nd in league in keeping opponents off the offensive glass).

Toronto is not a great offensive team (12th in the league in offensive efficiency) but they get a chunk of their offense from the places the Lakers have had trouble stopping. Jalen Rose is their top scorer (22.1 points per 40 minutes, PER of 16.45) but likely he will have Kobe on him for much of the game. The men the Lakers need to stop are point guard Rafer Alston (16.40 PER), power forward Chris Bosh (17.35 PER) and Donyell Marshal off the bench (18.85 PER). If the Lakers play defense against Toronto like they did against Detroit, the Raptors will pick up a second-straight win.

One potential positive for the Lakers is Devean George is expected to return to the lineup either today or on this road trip. The problem is who do you put on the DL to replace him? My guess is Sasha, even though a forward would make more sense (Slava?).

The Lakers need to win two out of three on this road trip (although Minnesota keeps losing so the Lakers have a 2.5 game playoff cushion), and a win in Toronto is a real possibility and gets us off to a good start.

And Playstation 2 predicts it. The Raptors continue to use PS2 to predict outcomes on their home page (I mentioned this last time they played), and in this match up Kobe hits a jumper with 1.8 seconds left for a 90-88 win. I’ll take that.