The Los Angeles Lakers hit the hardwood Friday night for the first time since pulling off a miraculous 25-point comeback in New Orleans. After enjoying a day off on Thursday, the Lakers resume their race for the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Friday evening.
Prior to a win in Phoenix on Wednesday, the Raptors had lost five games in a row. The Raptors have been a streaky bunch as of late. Directly before the five-game losing streak, the Raptors were winners in six of seven games.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the Raptors are more accustomed to losing streaks than winning streaks, and consequently, Toronto is 14 games below .500 and not much of a threat to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Just as the Raptors are ninth in the East, the Los Angeles Lakers are ninth in the West.
Unlike the Raptors, the Lakers do not have a losing record. With only 20 games remaining in the NBA season, the Lakers are in the background “photobombing” the playoff picture. Only a game and a half back of Utah for the eighth seed and only four games back of Golden State for the sixth seed, the Lakers suddenly have new life as long as they keep winning games.
Although the Lakers lost to the Raptors away from home, Friday night is one of the games LA is expected to win. That hardly means the Lakers will win, but if they want to get in the foreground of the Western Conference playoff picture, they need to win these types of games against “lesser” opponents.
The Raptors are 9-22 on the road this season, so the Lakers are the favorites on Friday.
After the dominant fourth quarter in New Orleans, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant appear to be on the same page on the floor. Howard’s mobility and defensive impact has been visibly improved following the All-Star break, and Bryant’s focus and determination have only sharpened as the season has progressed.
Following the All-Star break, the Lakers have won six of eight. Both their losses were excusable considering they were away from home against top teams—Denver and Oklahoma City.
If the Lakers keep taking care of business against the minions, they should end up in the playoffs and may even finish higher than most people expected only two weeks ago. Taking care of business means the Lakers need to win at home against the 24-38 Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
Also, seeing some more of that Dwight defense would be nice.