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Preview: Lakers at Raptors

January 20, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Raptors point guard Jose Calderon had 18 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds against the Rockets in a game last month.
Raptors point guard Jose Calderon had 18 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds… ( Aaron Vincent Elkaim / Associated…)

The Lakers (17-22) are playing a rare morning game Sunday, visiting the Toronto Raptors (14-26).

After winning two in a row, the Lakers lost Thursday to the Miami Heat. Coach Mike D'Antoni said he feels his team has been improving over the last six games, despite the team's 2-4 record during that stretch.

The Raptors have lost four consecutive games and are 6 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas and Linas Kleiza are all probably out with injury.

Key Matchup

The Raptors' leading scorer is DeMar DeRozan at 17.5 points a game. While the former L.A. high school and USC star is shooting 43.4% from the field, he's not much of a deep threat at 26.2%.

D'Antoni wants Bryant to guard the opposing team's best perimeter threat, which very likely means DeRozan. Of course, he'll have to guard Bryant as well.

It will be interesting to see if Bryant gets any time on point guards Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry. Lowry in particular can be a major offensive force for Toronto.

X-factor

Injuries have given time to center Amir Johnson, a Westchester High standout who has played well for the Raptors of late. Johnson can fill up a box score with points, rebounds, blocks, assists, steals, etc. He's a solid big.

The Lakers are still experimenting with Earl Clark. The bigger question will be Pau Gasol . . . does he start?  He's made it clear that's what he expects. In the meantime, Clark has shown that his athleticism and versatility are a good match alongside Dwight Howard.

Outlook

Losing to the Heat wasn't unexpected. The Lakers can't afford to lose to the Raptors.

ALSO:

Report links Lakers to Minnesota's Dante Cunningham

Pau Gasol 'probably not' open to coming off the bench

Pau Gasol and Mike D'Antoni are not on the same page

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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