Lakers aim to win a game that won't prove any points

Seems like every game that's come along for the Los Angeles Lakers in the past couple weeks has had some greater meaning than just one of 82 games over the course of a long regular season.  At San Antonio, at Dallas were chances to prove we could do it on the road against elite competition.  A game against the Clippers was payback for a prior loss.  The first rematch against Orlando, our Finals foes from last year.  And there was no bigger game than the one against Cleveland.  The following night, the Lakers had to prove they could pick themselves up after losing a tough one.

Well, tonight's game has no greater meaning.  It's just one of 82.  A loss would be bad, and mildly unexpected, but a loss would not communicate anything important regarding the Lakers season.  A win would be good, but would not solve all of the problems the Lakers have, nor quell the nervousness of Laker nation.  It's not meaningless, but it doesn't have anything to add besides the necessary 1/82 of the season which will be resolved tonight.  I, for one, welcome the break.  It's time for us to just get back to watching (and hopefully enjoying) the game of basketball without trying to derive meaning from it.

Tonight's foil is the Toronto Raptors, and if this game were taking place two weeks ago, the Lakers would have welcomed it with open arms.  That's because two weeks ago, the Lakers were struggling offensively and succeeding with defense.  Now, the Lakers seem to be doing the opposite.  I'm not saying the offense is great and the defense is bad, but the poor shooting which plagued L.A early in the season has been replaced with the type of success which screams "Outlier!".  Meanwhile, the Lakers defense has been like swiss cheese lately. 

What does all this have to do with the Raptors?  Well, the Raptors are 22-22, the very definition of average.  An average team overall often translates to an average team in a bunch of different specific areas, but it can also describe a team that combines a bunch of extremes to end up being average.  The Raptors are the latter.  They combine the worst defense in the league (and there isn't a close 2nd) with one of the best offenses in the league.  So, Toronto definitely will not stop you, and if you can stop them you are likely to win.  So, two weeks ago, the Lakers would have welcomed a chance to get back on track offensively, and would boast a defense capable of shutting Toronto down enough to get the W.  Now?  The Lakers should still probably win, but if they come out with the same defense that the Knicks saw, a loss is a very distinct possibility.

Tonight is also an opportunity for the respective fanbases to get a good hard look at the other guy in the rumored Bynum for Bosh trade scenarios.  Toronto doesn't really have a decent center at all, so look for Bynum to have his way early.  And I'm betting Bosh will play as if he's auditioning for L.A., so he'll have a great game as well.  It'll be important for the Lakers bigs to be very active on defense, because the Raptors employ players that can stretch the floor at all 5 positions, and you can bet that a steady dose of the high screen/ pick and pop  will be in effect tonight.

This is a sneaky tough game for the Lakers.  Toronto probably isn't good enough to fully grasp their attention, but the Raptors also happen to excel in the area the Lakers struggle with the most.  Ordinarily, given the choice between being unstoppable inside (which the Lakers should be tonight) and getting whatever you want outside, the inside choice is a no brainer.  But, if the Raptors get hot from the outside, and the bench struggles to continue their extremely good outside shooting of late, don't be surprised if you don't like tonight's result.  Then again, I'm not sure how many people will even be paying attention as football carries the day.

 

Lakers

Raptors

RECORD

33-10

22-22

NET POINTS PER GAME

+6.8 (1)

-1.3 (18)

PACE

93.9 (7)

92.9 (14)

OFFENSIVE RATING

108.7 (9)

111.2 (4)

Turnover Rate (Off.)

12.2% (3)

12.6% (7)

FTA/FGA (Off.)

0.218 (22)

0.274 (2)

Free-Throw %

77.5 (9)

77.3 (10)

Effective FG% (Off.)

49.7 (14)

51.2 (7)

True Shooting% (Off.)

53.9 (16)

56.2 (5)

Off Rebounding Rate

27.0% (12)

24.9% (23)

DEFENSIVE RATING

101.6 (2)

112.7 (30)

Turnover Rate (Def.)

13.5% (17)

12.0% (28)

FTA/FGA (Def.)

0.197 (2)

0.257 (24)

Effective FG% (Def.)

47.1 (2)

50.7 (22)

True Shooting% (Def.)

51.1 (1)

55.5 (25)

Def Rebounding Rate

74.3% (10)

72.0% (27)

All statistical terms defined here. Parentheses indicate league rankings. Numbers are courtesy of Basketball Reference and HoopData.

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