The Los Angeles Lakers play the Toronto Raptors at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday morning, and this game features two teams who are desperate for a win.
The Raptors' last home game was an overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, but Toronto has a respectable 10-9 record at home this season. On Friday, the Raptors took to the road to play a game in Philadelphia and suffered another frustrating overtime loss.
When the Raptors take the floor of the Air Canada Centre on Sunday at 1 p.m. local time, they will be hoping to snap a four-game losing streak.
The Raptors understand losing streaks, as this is their fourth four-game losing streak of the young season. Consequently, Toronto started the season 4-19.
However, since that point, the Raptors have won 10 of their last 17—that includes the current four-game skid. Toronto’s record over that stretch is better than the Lakers' record over the same stretch: only eight wins in their last 17 games.
The Lakers, however, have been playing much better basketball over the past three games.
Following a six-game losing streak that culminated in a home thrashing courtesy of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers have played like a different team. LA put together two blowout victories playing defense and sharing the ball before the Heat came to town.
Miami may have walked out of Los Angeles with a win on Thursday, but the Lakers played stellar defense and lost late in the game due to poor offensive execution and LeBron James playing on an elevated level.
The Raptors are not near the level of the Miami Heat, and they do not have LeBron James on their roster.
However, Toronto certainly offers some tricky back-court matchups with Jose Calderon, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeeRozan, and Alan Anderson playing integral roles in the Raptors’ offense. The foursome of guards combines for 55.9 points and 17.1 assists per game.
Kobe Bryant’s recent defensive ambition may result in him individually challenging all four of Toronto's dangerous guards at some point during the game.
Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ backup point guard, has been especially hot over the past three games. Lowry scored 21 points in only 15 minutes against the Nets, so the former Houston Rocket has earned more minutes over the past two games. Lowry is averaging 18.5 and 9 assists the past two games off the bench.
With regards to the Lakers' bench, Head Coach Mike D’Antoni continued to reserve his right to bring Pau Gasol off the bench at Friday's practice. On Thursday, the Spaniard returned from a concussion, did not start, but positively contributed in the Lakers’ loss to the Miami Heat.
However, Gasol has been clear about his desire to return to the starting lineup.
Considering Gasol’s tenure and experience, he should retain his starting position for the moment. The Lakers did not appear to be hampered by a lack of pace or energy when Gasol and Howard played in tandem on Thursday, so the added height may yet prove to be an asset.
The Lakers need to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive and avoid a bad start to the road trip.
Before thinking about the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the Lakers need a win on Sunday.