3 in the Key - Toronto Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs. The LA Lakers


It's the Lakers and Raptors tonight at the ACC, and RaptorsHQ gives you the goods on a tough test for the Dinos...

It's always a big event when the Lake Show comes to town.

It's the one time during the season that the Toronto Raptors garner better Neilson ratings than curling does, and of course fans' one chance to see Kobe Bryant here in TO.

Both Toronto and Los Angeles have 6 and 4 records over their last 10, and while both have won their last match-ups, things have been a bit rocky of late.  The Lakers suddenly have seen the return of the dreaded "soft" label, while the Raptors have simply been inconsistent, beating Dallas one afternoon, imploding to Indiana soon after.

On paper of course, this looks like a loss by Toronto.

The Lakers are a more experienced group, and one that excels both offensively (10th most efficient offense in the league) and defensively (3rd most efficient defensive in the league), and of course they've got that guy named Kobe Bryant.

Bryant only dropped 27 on the Knicks on Friday night but he might have been saving some for this evening.  After all, Friday was the fourth anniversary of Bryant's 81 point game, and maybe he intends to celebrate two nights later...

It's a tough test for the Raps for sure, especially after a rough go against the Bucks Friday night, and to grab a W, here are our 3 keys:

1)  Score, Score, Score.

Despite all the talk of the Raptors having one of the top offences in the league, fans certainly haven't seen it over the past two games.  The Raps struggled from the field against the Bucks and against a team like the Lakers, one that essentially scores the same number of points per game as Toronto on average, a sub 45 per cent shooting night ain't gonna cut it.

No word on if Bargs will play tonight but if he doesn't, other players are going to have to step up to help fuel the offensive fire.  One player in particular, Mr. Hedo Turkoglu, needs to take this opportunity to rise and shine against elite competition because...well...that's what Bryan Colangelo brought him here for...

 

2)  Rebound, Rebound, Rebound.

Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest...all of these guys can rebound the basketball in large doses.  Toronto isn't dead last in terms of rebounding rate this season, but it's still an area where they tend to struggle.  The Lakers can hurt you in so many ways and one of them is easy put-backs off of missed perimeter shots.  Gasol, Odom and Artest are especially effective in this capacity and even the likes of Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown can use their strength and athleticism to do damage in this area.

The Raps need to be extremely strong on the glass this evening, not just in terms of their own basket, but also following their own missed shots.  The last thing I want to see are easy rebounds for the Lakers that lead to quick outlet passes for breakaway dunks.

I'm not quite ready for the Shannon Brown show yet...

 

3)  Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.

Like LeBron James, you can't stop him, you can only try to keep him in check.  This has proved ridiculously hard for teams this year as evidenced by Bryant's multiple game-winners, and that's taking into account his finger injury and varoius other bumps and bruises.

DeMar DeRozan is going to have his hands full tonight no doubt, so I'll be looking for lots of help from teammates, and dare we say, a little more zone?  Despite their high-scoring style, the Lakers are actually middle of the pack statistically in terms of metrics like true shooting and effective field goal percentage, and they're only a mediocre 3-point shooting club.

Therefore tonight I'll be looking to see the Raptors try to force the Lakers into tough, low percentage shots and force the ball out of Kobe's hands.

I'd prefer not to see another 81 tonight, and I feel that if players like Jordan Farmar, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom have to become LA's focal point on offense, this bodes extremely well for a Raptors' win.

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