Game Preview: Raptors vs. Lakers
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Raptors face the Los Angeles Lakers in the third game of their six-game homestand on Friday at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto is 2-0 through the first two games and has won four straight. The Lakers, under new head coach Luke Walton, are 10-10 on the season and look like a completely different team than a year ago.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: TSN4, TSN5 / TSN1050
Carroll leading by example
DeMarre Carroll has talked about rhythm a lot this season. From using the first few weeks of the season to get into game shape after taking the summer off from basketball to rehab his body, to getting used to resting one half of back-to-backs, the start of the season has come with some adjustments for Carroll. He’s managed to adept quite well, and he’s starting to catch the rhythm he has spoken of so frequently. Over his last 10 games, Carroll is averaging 13.9 points on 53 percent shooting, up from his 10.3 points on 46 percent shooting for the season.
“Mentally I’m in a good state,” Carroll said. “Physically I'm in a good state. I try not to focus on [time off]. Maybe it may help me, getting more rest. In the end I just have to come out and do what I can do when I can and that’s to help this team any way possible.”
Whether on the court or the bench watching his teammates, one thing that’s stood out to Carroll is a need to up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor.
“We’ve got to be more scrappy,” Carroll said. “We don't have the rim protection we had last year so we have to be more scrappy. We’ve got to get to the 50/50 balls. We have a lot of long, athletic guys that can play defence but it’s all about that will and want to and I feel like we have to learn to do it day in and day out.”
Bench providing a boost
The Raptors reserves struggled a bit to start the season. With DeMar DeRozan lighting it up nightly, some of the roster got caught watching and waiting for him to takeover. In recent games, it’s been the second unit to come in and provide a spark, especially from downtown. Terrence Ross, Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson have all had their moments in recent games. Casey singled out the play of the reserves in Wednesday’s victory against the Grizzlies.
“Cory came in and got us going,” he said. “Pat came in and got us going, [we fed off] their energy.”
Joseph especially has had a big impact on both ends of the floor after the point guard and coach had a conversation during last week’s road trip about playing more and thinking less.
“He’s playing with more juice,” Casey said. “He’s getting into the basketball, that’s the most important thing. He’s got to be our defensive stopper in the second unit or if he’s going to play in there with Kyle and DeMar. That’s his role coming in, and he’s doing that, getting into the basketball, creating turnovers, pressuring the ball and that’s who he is. I think that in turn gives him juice on the offensive end, gives him confidence and he plays a little bit freer and tougher on the offensive end. But it starts with his presence on the defensive end.”
Lakers steadily improving
The Lakes team that will face the Raptors on Friday looks very different than the one that hit the floor a year ago. Although the young core of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell remains the same, along with rookies Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac, Walton and his staff have added some veterans to balance out the roster. After posting a 17-65 record a season ago, the Lakers already have 10 wins this year.
“They’re playing together,” Casey said. “Everybody is happy, everybody is producing, everybody doing their job, playing with a lot of freedom. They’re ninth in pace, so they’re gunning up the floor, letting it fly. They’re playing loose and free, there’s no pressure on them. We’ve got to make sure we get back [on Friday] night and have an early presentation defensively because Jose [Calderon] is letting it fly, Lou [Williams] is letting it fly, [Jordan] Clarkson’s letting it fly with no type of pressure whatsoever.”
Raptors fans will see some familiar faces on Friday with former Raptors Jose Calderon and Lou Williams suiting up for the Lakers. As well, on the sideline, former Raptors assistant coach and Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys is an assistant on Walton’s staff.