I don't need to tell you the history between Kobe Bryant and the Toronto Raptors. Even if you remove that game nine years ago, Kobe has a unique legacy of beating and humiliating several generations of Raptors teams. Over the years the lesson repeated itself: Toronto would hang in a game against the Lakers, just to have it wrestled away by an impossible shot from Black Mamba.
And that's what makes tonight's game so strange. After 20 years of showing up against the Raptors, Kobe Bryant is making his last trip to Toronto... and he might not even play.
The Los Angeles Lakers, owners of a 3-17 record, come in to Toronto on the second night of a back-to-back and on the last leg of a four-games-in-five-nights stretch. Kobe has played in each of the games on this road trip but was limited last night in Detroit with a stomach virus. If we assume he won't play at this juncture, that may actually be bad news for the Raptors.
Yeah, you might've heard: Kobe isn't very good anymore. Shooting 37% and 22% from three, Bryant continues to chuck for a team-high usage rate of 30.6%. Demonstrative in everything that he does, he's even pushed the limits of hopeless, stupid jump shots.
Kobe's last 3 games 1) vs. PHI 2) vs. WAS 3) vs. ATL Dude is single-handily re-defining the term "Victory Lap" pic.twitter.com/YGliPwRosN— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) December 5, 2015
If Kobe sits, the Lakers may be a better team for it.
That said, the Raptors have already beaten them this season - just two weeks ago at Staples Centre, in a 102-91 win that shouldn't have been that close. While that one came amidst a tough road trip, this game has schedule win written all over it for the Raptors, so let's keep it short and sweet with things to watch for.
The Continued Rise of Baebae
After 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira is doing more than winning over Raptors fans, he's actually making a case to take more of Bismack Biyombo's minutes at centre. In a game where the Raptors should be ahead by a comfortable margin (one would hope), Bebe has an opportunity to play more minutes and continue his momentum toward being an actual rotation player when Jonas Valanciunas returns.
While Kyle Lowry is balling out of his mind lately, I would love to see him get an opportunity to rest tonight. That goes the same for DeMarre Carroll, who has shot 36% or lower in four of the last six games. Plantar fasciitis is a hell of a thing, and I don't want to keep putting those two scary words in your head, but this is a game where guys can get rest and hopefully the Raptors take advantage.
Beware The Young Guys
The Lakers don't pose a huge threat, mostly because Byron Scott refuses to play his guys who make an actual impact. Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle are all talented individuals, and if Scott doesn't step all over their potential, the Raptors should beware of any one of those three going off.
Where To Watch: Sportsnet One, 7:30 p.m. EST