The Toronto Raptors come to Staples Center tonight, and if you're of the belief that this truly is Kobe Bryant's last season, then few nights of the farewell tour will bring up memories quite like this one. There has been no shortage of highlights in Bryant's Hall-of-Fame career, but perhaps no team brings to mind Kobe's singular greatness quite like Toronto.
Unfortunately, in present day, the Los Angeles Lakers will be lucky to have any success against the Raptors. Los Angeles submitted one of its more dispiriting defensive efforts of the season in the fourth quarter of Monday's game against Phoenix, and will have difficulty righting the ship against Toronto, which ranks eighth in the league in offensive efficiency.
Leading the charge for the Raptors is Kyle Lowry, who has improved upon last year's All-Star campaign and is averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. Opposing point guards have already had their way against Los Angeles thus far (see: Knight, Brandon and Rubio, Ricky) – Lowry presents as stiff a challenge as any. His backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan also pours in 21 points per game and makes a living at the foul line.
On the other side of the ball, it could be a good night for Julius Randle to break out of his offensive funk, as Luis Scola doesn't possess the athleticism to guard Randle. The second-year forward has shot 8-of-23 and committed 10 turnovers over the last three games, but he is well-equipped to attack arguably the weakest member of the Raptors' starting five.
The Lakers will have a decided rest advantage over Toronto, having not played since Monday. The Raptors, meanwhile, are on game four of a west coast swing and will need a victory over either the Lakers or the Clippers Sunday to prevent a winless trip.
Enjoy the game, and hopefully Kobe will have enough juice after the week off to put on a vintage Friday night show. (At the very least, remember when he could do this?)
Time: 7:30 PT