Records: Lakers 20-7 (3rd in West), Raptors 10-17 (10th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.2 (1st in NBA), Raptors 107.6 (13th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.1 (11th in NBA), Raptors 110.8 (25th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Raptors: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Raptors: Reggie Evans & Peja Stojakavic (out); Sonny Weems & Andrea Bargnani (questionable)
The Lakers Coming in: Four straight wins on the road signal that the Lakers are indeed finding their groove again. But it’s not just the wins, it’s how they’re getting them. Most of the victories have been controlled dominance where deliberate execution on both sides of the ball has led to leads being established an then held onto, producing comfortable closing margins. Even against Philly – a game where the Lakers couldn’t find a foothold to gain any traction for most of the contest – turned into a double digit margin as they condensed their winning formula and executed it in the final 12 minutes rather than over the course of the entire game.
So as I’ve been writing a lot lately, things are looking up for the Lakers as they’ve started to settle into the team that many expected when they’re completely healthy. They’re defending better and on offense they’ve gotten back to the basics of the Triangle while still going to their match up advantages to feature their best players in situations that they can exploit. Yes, the level of competition hasn’t been elite, but I’ve always said that a team can only play the opponents on the schedule so getting the win is what’s important. The Lakers are getting it done right now and that’s really all that matters.
The Raptors Coming in: Since the last time the Lakers faced the Raps, they’ve gone through some changes in personnel due to trades and injury. Bruising rebounder Reggie Evans has been sidelined with an injured foot and is still recovering from surgery to repair the damage. Meanwhile, Jarrett Jack (along with Marcus Banks and David Andersen) was dealt away to the Hornets for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic. The trade allowed the Raps to clear up their point guard rotation as the reigns of the team are now squarely in the hands of Jose Calderon while also allowing the Raps to open up some cap space with Peja’s expiring deal.
Despite the trade, though, this team is still not performing that well overall. They’re still young and taking their lumps as they’re able to compete hard but not able to pull out as many victories as they’d like. Their December schedule has been rather tough too (they’ve played the Knicks, Bulls, Nuggets, and Pacers) and only have 2 wins to show in the 7 contests this month, including losses in two of their last three games.
On the bright side, they’ve got young talent that should only improve as the season progresses. DeRozan looks like a real keeper and, while he may not ever live up to the expectations of a #1 overall pick, Bargnani is real offensive threat and is trying harder on defense and when rebounding. Sonny Weems is also a nice rotation player and a very hard worker that will continue to contribute as a solid wing. If they continue to improve at the pace they’ve already show, this team will be also improve and will only need to find that one player that can anchor their team. (Which, I know, can be said for most teams. But I’d rather have a nucleus of hard workers that are ready to take that next step when that key player arrives than not.)
Raptors Blogs: Check out Raptors Republic – whose game preview is here – and RaptorBlog for all your north of the border NBA news.
Keys to game: When these two teams faced off in the Lakers’ 6th game of the year, our guys were able to pull out the victory even though they didn’t play their best ball. The Lakers were crushed on the glass as Reggie Evans did what he does best leading his team’s assault on the opposition’s defensive backboards. The Raptors – especially Jarrett Jack – also pushed the pace on the Lakers and attacked the paint at every opportunity in both the open and half court, forcing the Lakers’ bigs to help on penetration. This all conspired to generate second chance points by the Raps as the Lakers were consistently getting beat to the ball by the Raps bigs or being forced out of their rebounding position to help on guards that beat perimeter defenders.
Today, the Lakers will need to shore up these deficiencies if they hope to have an easier go of it than they did in early November. Luckily, both Evans and Jack are not playing, but that doesn’t mean that Amir Johnson or Bayless won’t try to replicate what was successful for this team the last time out. So, building a wall around the paint and attacking the defensive glass should be high priorities against the Raps.
The Lakers defense will also be tested by the Raptors pick and pop game between Calderon and Bargnani. We’ll see if Phil deploys Odom or Gasol on the sharp shooting big man, but either player will need to help and recover effectively to ensure that Bargs doesn’t get wide open looks from beyond the arc. They’ll also need help from their mates to ensure that if they’re recovering to their own man that rotations behind them are crisp so that easy driving lanes are blocked off and Calderon/Bayless don’t get easy paths to the basket.
Offensively, the Lakers need to attack the paint. Whether off the bounce or via post ups, the ball should being going inside early and often. The Raptors don’t have capable shot blockers to consistently slow down the inside games of Gasol, Odom, Bynum, or Kobe so getting deep post position or driving hard to the rim should constitute a big portion of these players’ offensive attacks. In order to open up the post and those driving lanes, the Lakers will need to move the ball effectively to get the defense moving from side to side. If the Lakers try to just make one pass and go at the D, Toronto will have a much easier time of stacking their help and contesting this initial action. So move the ball around and good things will happen.
Lastly and as mentioned earlier, controlling tempo will again play a major role in who wins this game. I’ve mentioned Bayless, but DeRozan and Barbosa are attack players that love to get out in the open court and are effective off the dribble in the half court as well. They’ll look for any opportunity to speed up the game and make this into a track meet where their quickness and overall athleticism can counter the Lakers’ superior size and strength. The Lakers need to ensure that their transition defense is disciplined and effectively get back on D. They’ll also be able to slow the Raptors in the open court by balancing the floor and showing patience on offense as this will lead to good shots and even better offensive rebounding chances – both of which will make run outs less likely.
Where you can watch: 10am start time out west on KCAL. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.
Darius Soriano says
Update: Forget what I said about the Pick and Pop with Bargs as he’s a late scratch for the game. Rookie Ed Davis will get the start for the injured Bargnani.
Davis is a lanky left handed player that is similar to Brandan Wright of the Dubs. He, like Wright, is a TarHeel product from UNC. Davis didn’t play in the first Lakers/Raptors game as he was recovering from a knee issue.
This one is for Warren.
Let’s get this victory and head back out West feelin good about going 6-1 on this roadie.
Hey Darius, you have a link for the game?
Nice to see Pau take it strong on that dunk. He tries to just flip it up in that situation too much.
Is it just me, or is Kobe finishing with dunks more than he did last year?
Between that ridiculous cross-over, and then the sublime spin-baseline drive-two handed dunk just now, I think his legs are starting to feel good.
Darius Soriano says
#3. Only a veetle player feed:
Critical fantasy football matchups and a Lakers/Raptors battle at the same time. It’s sports heaven.
that veetle feed keeps stalling.. is there anything else??
At some point, I’d love to see us apply some contact at the rim so that other teams don’t always get easy layups (and in some cases, And 1s).
Wow, that’s a pretty bad call to end the half.
And that’s why we need Bynum in the middle.
well, I found this for the last couple minutes, but the quality was bleah..
I like this 3rd quarter approach – centering on Kobe’s aggressiveness is a good way to reinvigorate the troops out of the break. We’ve had far too many ugly 3rd quarters this year.
Apparently I’m the only east coaster in here…
Kobe’s so lethal when he’s slashing and cutting the way he is. It makes it so much more potent when he’s looking for the pass. Now that he has such great options to finish plays for him, I think Kobe can peak in a whole new way this season. I remember thinking the same thing about Jordan. He seemed to physically and skillfully peak in the early 90’s. Although, Jordan really seemed to dominate in a whole new way in his late 90’s run. Kobe will most lekely be the same way.
The Raptors are essentially running a layup line this quarter. The perimeter defense has been a few steps slow and the bigs aren’t stepping in to really contest shots.
Man what happened, we were just up 16 like 5 minutes ago, now down to 4
After that Clippers game, you’d think the Lakers would understand the importance of the final seconds in a quarter.
Does not surprise me Barbosa made that, he is a Laker killer
That quarter was tough to watch.
Phil went far too long with the bench.
Uhhh…..I would say Phil has a lot of faith in this second unit…
There really are some bad teams in the NBA. it seems that anytime a team goes on a winning streak you look at their schedule and say “who did they play.”
The Raptors definitely represent the “who did they play” category. The Lakers haven’t played any of the top teams yet, (Spurs, Mavericks, Heat, Celtics). I think it will be very hard for us to get home court advantage this season based on our remaining schedule.
great game by the bench 57 points
So many negative comments, in my opinion Phil has managed this game perfectly…so much rest for the starters and the bench managed to hold on to the lead. And Barnes is rewarding Phil for yet again giving him minutes in crunch time, nice to see.
Nice win, the raptors really played pretty respectably considering their injury situation, 3 players above 20 pts with that lineup would definitely beat most teams in the league.
Did not exactly play many contenders on the road trip, but a 6-1 road trip is great no matter who you play.
“many” contenders? I guess you mean Chicago, their one loss on the trip. The Lakers have played 4 teams with winning records all season.
>Lakers have played 4 teams with winning records all season..
David R. says
loving how two games in a row Lakers finished with +30 point in the 4th quarter.
– Also agree about the Negative comments. too many to soon. let our Lakers team actually face them (Top Western Teams) before making any decisions as to where we stand.
They may have better Winning records, though they as well have not faced this Lakers team. if we walk away with a win against each of them, we would be in great shape wouldn’t you all agree? Keep Rolling Lakers!.
@RicBucher Maybe it means nothing, but: Bynum scores on innocuous putback, winces running back on D, flexes braced right knee as if to test it.
I agree about HCA. Highly unlikely. SA has been fortunate to win the last 3, but they did and are 23-3. Boston is 22-4 and has already played Miami twice.
Sasha put up admirable fantasy nos. today
29m 4-10 2-4 0-0 6r 3a 3s +23 10p
This game was over before I even woke up. I was hoping to catch a Lakers game today..
Hopefully it’s nothing, because as I’ve continuously stated, we will not be able to Retain The Belts (let alone, make it to the Finals) without Drew being 100%. A Half Ass Drew Will Not cut it this year. If anything, let it just be some discomfort, but nothing out of the Ordinary from an individual who’s just tryin’ to make it back from off season surgery.
Didn’t see the game, but was happy to see the balanced number of shot attempts.
I saw Sasha’s stat line. I hope things are turning for him. I would really like to see him achieve some level of sccuess.
This may be to early to worry about HCA. I do remember the Celtics taking it away from us in the last Finals, and we all know how that turned out, but then again there was a 7th game at Staples. So who really knows about this whole HCA deal anyway, is it the last game in a 7 game series that matters the most? Yeah, those Celtics are on a roll, huh? 13 straight wins I believe now.
I like how Phil is using Walton lately.
Earlier this season while experimenting with a small-ball lineup, he put Artest at the 4 spot and it wasn’t really working. On this trip Phil has been putting Walton at the 4 spot against teams without a physical presence and it seems to be working. Walton had some nice, productive minutes today and he moved the ball well keeping Bynum involved.
I’m not sure how it’ll work against teams with physical 4s, but I was pleased with what I saw today out of Walton.
Oh, I thought about it a little, and the Finals is a 2-3-2 format. That means we HAVE to win 3 in a row (impossible?) and take one from the opponent in their house, or we just win 2 at home and take 2 on the road (more feasible?), this is just great, I am thinking about the Lakers in the Finals again.
Darius Soriano says
Game recap is up.