The current iteration of the Los Angeles Lakers is a bit like Frankenstein's monster. There are some pieces that appear to be useful and others that appear to have come from viable specimens, but when stitched together, something isn't quite right.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been praised this season for acquiring veterans like Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince to tutor their burgeoning young talent; it's almost like the Lakers tried to copy that plan, except halfway through they spilled soda all over their cheat sheet. I mean, if you were trying to build around a talented young forward like Julius Randle, would you let Metta World Peace anywhere near him? (By the way, Randle is a MAN. 18-12 tonight in just under 30 minutes. Once he gets more polished, look out) And if you're trying to plan for life after Kobe, why did you acquire veterans like Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass? I guess you need to field a 12 man roster, but it all just seems a bit patchwork.
That lack of cohesion was on full display tonight, as the Lakers allowed the Raptors to overcome a lacklustre first half to take the game 102-91. Toronto actually trailed by a point heading into the second half, and were only that close because of the play of Kyle Lowry, who had 19 points and five assists at the break. Lowry added another pair of threes in the second half to bring his game total to 7; he actually failed to make a two point field goal in the game, but still led the team with 25 points. DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, was MIA for most of the night, and the caterwauling about his play would still be heard if not for his beautiful spinning lay-up to ice the game.
The biggest story of the night is obviously the injury to Jonas Valanciunas. He was fouled while driving to the basket near the end of the second quarter and sustained a broken fourth finger on his non-shooting hand. More tests will be done tomorrow and there is currently no timeline for his return. This is a huge blow for a Raptors team that was finding success when they leaned more heavily on their young big man. Expect Lucas Nogueira to be recalled from Raptors 905 to help the team shore up the 5 spot. He put up a strong 13-9-9 with four blocks in his first D-League contest this year.
Beyond the injury, this game once again served to illustrate the Raptors' lack of offensive depth. The aforementioned Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph had excellent games, but Toronto struggled to create any kind of offensive flow against a far inferior opponent. If the three-point shot hadn't been falling at a 45 percent clip, the outcome of this game might have been a lot different. Terrence Ross returned to the line-up and showed flashes of effectiveness; he played just 14 minutes but hit a pair of threes and was generally aggressive. However, on one particular play, he went coast to coast with barely a look at a teammate and then decided to take a turn-around jumper from the foul line with nobody in rebounding position. The play ended in a brutal airball. He was immediately taken to task by Kyle Lowry, who checked in for him moments later. Ross still needs to work on his decision making if he's going to realize his potential as a 'three and D' swingman, and with Valanciunas on the shelf, Toronto is going to need all the scoring help it can get.
The 8-6 Raptors finish up their tough road trip on Sunday at 3:30pm Eastern, when they take on the Clippers.
How do you think Toronto will manage without Jonas?