After dropping their first two games of the 2015-16 preseason to the Utah Jazz in Hawaii, the Los Angeles Lakers (0-2) are still in search for their first win as they fly back to California to face the Toronto Raptors (1-1) in Ontario, CA. However, although being winless, the Lakers showed a sense of grittiness and toughness in the second game that wasn’t seen all of last season, but still fell short in an exciting 117-114 overtime loss. The team looked better across the board as they got strong contributions from Roy Hibbert (16 points, 11 rebounds), Julius Randle (16 points) and Lou Williams, who led all scorers with 20 points. Kobe Bryant also looked sharp, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in under 21 minutes of action.
The only scare came with 7:42 left in the first quarter when rookie D’Angelo Russell took a hard fall on a foul he committed against Rudy Gobert that caused him to miss the rest of the game with a bruised glue muscle. The fall looked worse than it actually was, but head coach Byron Scott decided to take precautionary matters and not take his chances on the second overall pick of this year’s draft. His status for Thursday’s game is questionable.
DeMarre Carroll is entering his first season of his new four-year, $60 million deal with the Raptors after easily coming off his best season of his career. He finished last season averaging 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a defensive-minded player who could play on both ends of the floor. Carroll was the heart and soul of the Atlanta Hawks and he helped lead them to a franchise-high 60 wins and a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Now with Toronto, the 28-year-old will have more talent around him, but expect him to continue to be the tenacious defender that led him to that big contract. He scored 15 points in his latest outing against the Golden State Warriors in a 95-87 loss.
Alongside Carroll is Kentucky product and former first-round draft pick, Patrick Patterson. As of now, the starting power forward position is his, but with veteran Luis Scola right behind him, there’s no guarantee that Patterson is their starting four man going forward. Patterson is going to have to continue to spread the floor as a stretch four and knock down shots from the perimeter. Last season, he shot a carer-high 283 three-point attempts, knocking down 37.1 percent of them. He struggled against Golden State, finishing with just four points and five rebounds in 25 minutes played.
The 7’0″ Jonas Valanciunas is the Raptors big man in the middle who is looking to follow-up a great 2014-15 season where he posted averages of 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.The 23-year-old center is now entering his fourth year in the NBA and is adapting nicely to this Raptors team that’s made the playoffs two straight years. Valanciunas finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds in his first game against the Los Angeles Clippers and eight points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes on Monday against Golden State.
Toronto’s backcourt is potentially looking like one of the top backcourts in the Eastern Conference. At point guard, there’s All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, who has looked great thus far again in the preseason. Lowry has only played in one of Toronto’s two preseason games thus far, but scored 26 points in 21 minutes in Toronto’s 93-73 victory against the Clippers on Sunday night. He took Monday night off against the Warriors to rest a sore right groin, but is set to return Thursday in Ontario against the Lakers.
Alongside Lowry, there’s Los Angeles native and USC product DeMar DeRozan at the shooting guard position. The 2014 NBA All-Star guard is a great asset to Lowry as he gives the team great athleticism along with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Known as a highlight dunker early in his career, DeRozan has transitioned to a more well-rounded scorer in his six years in the league, averaging over 20 points in each of his last two seasons.
Keys to Victory:
Continue to Play Gritty: The Lakers got back in the second quarter being down 19 against the Jazz in Game 2 because they started pressing more on close-outs and with active hands on the perimeter. This was led by Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, giving us a glimpse of the former 2010 team that won the NBA Championship.
Win the Rebounding Battle: After two games, the Lakers are currently -16 in the rebounding category. To get their first win, they’ll have to win the battle on the boards and limit Toronto to only one shot attempt per possession. If they do this, it’ll keeps their defense fresh and set up opportunities for semi-breaks in transition.
Finish Strong: The Lakers have failed to close either game after having the lead in both games in the fourth quarter. Although the reserves are taking up most of the minutes in the fourth, they have to find a way to get stops and capitalize on the other end. Lou Williams and Nick Young will probably be carrying the load again if the game is close in the fourth quarter. They need to limit the Raptors to one possession and take high-percentage shots on the offensive end.
Toronto Raptors (1-1) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)
7:00 PM PST, October 8, 2015
Citizens Business Bank, Ontario, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet/ NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Raptors Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: DeMar Derozan
SF: DeMarre Carroll
PF: Patrick Patterson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: Luis Scola, Terrence Ross, Corey Joseph
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Nick Young
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert