The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a gritty 96-90 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. Julius Randle was tremendous for the Lakers, scoring 13 points and collecting 20 rebounds. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams finished with 20 points a piece to lead the team. In the teams’ first meeting on Nov. 20, Jimmy Butler was sensational for the Bulls as he went off for 40 points, seven rebounds, and six assists but was limited to 22 points on 4-of-18 shooting on Wednesday.
Tonight the Lakers take on the Toronto Raptors in the third game of a four-game road trip. The Raptors are currently riding a four-game winning streak. DeMar DeRozan has arguably been one of the best players in the league this season, averaging 28.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. If Lakers hope to come out with a victory in Toronto, they must do a good job defensively on DeRozan.
Injuries to D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young have put the Lakers backcourt in a bit of a bind. Instead of starting either Williams or Clarkson, head coach Luke Walton opted to start Jose Calderon and Brandon Ingram against Chicago. In Walton’s mind, he does not want to disrupt the chemistry of the second unit, and rightfully so because the Lakers’ bench has been the best inthe entire league so far.
Calderon and Ingram did a good job for the Lakers in starting roles. Calderon has done an admirable job in Russell’s absence. Although he doesn’t put up the offensive numbers Russell does, nor should he be expected too, he provides the Lakers with a veteran presence that is vital for such a young team.
At the shooting guard position, Ingram has played well. He is often asked to run the offense when he is on the floor. Even though he hasn’t had an offensive breakthrough performance, he has been noticeably more aggressive in trying to score the ball. His defense remains his best quality early in the season, as his size and length causes difficulty for opposing players.
Williams and Clarkson remain the Lakers biggest catalysts off the bench. Their play has made the second unit such a headache for other teams, as both can score the ball at any given moment. They will be counted on once again to provide the Lakers with a scoring punch tonight.
The Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan is one of the better ones the league offers. As stated beforehand, DeRozan is in the midst of enjoying the best season of his career. After signing a five-year extension worth $139 million over the summer, he has delivered on being a franchise player.
Lowry has enjoyed a good season of his own, averaging 20.4 points, five rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. As important as DeRozan is to the Raptors, it can be argued that Lowry is just as or even more important to the team’s success. He is the machine that makes them go. In last year’s playoffs, when Lowry was playing with confidence and “swagger”, Toronto was difficult to beat, but when he struggled, the team struggled as well.
It will be important for L.A.’s guards to play good defense on Lowry because if not, it very well could be a long night for the Lakers. Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph provide the Raptors with depth off the bench.
The Lakers will need production from their frontcourt once again. Randle’s play this season has been a difference maker for the team. His ability to distribute the ball and score from practically anywhere inside the three-point line is an advantage for him. He will be counted on to do more of the same tonight against the frontcourt of the Raptors.
Luol Deng has been playing better as of late, including scoring 10 points in Wednesday’s victory. With the injuries to Young and Russell, Deng will be depended on to provide more offense. Timofey Mozgov gives the Lakers a solid rim protector and very good finisher around the basket. He will need to box out Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas tonight to prevent extra opportunities for Toronto.
Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, and Thomas Robinson have provided great energy for the Lakers off the bench. Nance Jr. and Black have been consistent this year with their play, using their athleticism to make an impact in a game. Robinson has been a pleasant surprise as of late. After being seldom used for most of the season, he has added even more energy to the already explosive bench of the Lakers.
With DeMarre Carroll resting on the second night of a back-to-back, former UCLA Bruin Norman Powell will get the start for the Raptors. While not much of an offensive threat, Powell is a fierce defender capable of locking down players full court.
Valanciunas is the player the Lakers must make sure they defend. He is a big body that can cause damage inside the paint and on the boards while Pascal Siakam is a role player who provides another big body. Off the bench, Patrick Patterson provides solid rebounding and the ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position. The Lakers must make sure he doesn’t get going as he can really give the Raptors a boost.
3 Keys to Victory
Turnovers have been the Achilles heel of the Lakers this season. Against the Bulls on Wednesday, they committed 24 turnovers, a season-high. If they want to beat one of the better teams like Toronto, they must take care of the basketball.
The Lakers backcourt needs to play well in order to come out with a win. The absence of Russell and Young leaves a big offensive hole. Ingram, Clarkson, and Williams must provide the offensive firepower that matches DeRozan’s and Lowry’s for the Raptors.
Play With Energy
The Lakers have a bad habit of starting out games sluggish. It leaves them with an uphill climb for most of the game. Starting off slow against the Raptors may not be in the best interest for the Lakers if they want a victory.
Los Angeles Lakers (10-10) Vs. Toronto Raptors (12-6)
4:30 P.M. PST, December 2, 2016
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Raptors Starting Lineup:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Norman Powell
SF: DeMar DeRozan
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, Lucas Nogueira, Norman Powell
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Tarik Black, Thomas Tobinson