Preview: Lakers visit Eastern Conference Finalist Toronto Raptors

The Los Angeles Lakers will have yet another tough game on Friday as they pay a visit to the Toronto Raptors. The team will still be without its starting backcourt as D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young nurse injuries.

The Raptors will prove to be a tough test for the Lakers. In the same year that the Lakers’ set a new franchise-low in wins, Toronto had by far its best season in franchise history. Led by the exceptional back-court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raps ascended to the Eastern Conference elites before being taken out by the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the conference finals.

Here are a few keys to the game:

Make DeRozan Inefficient

There is no doubt that DeRozan is a talented scorer. His 28.9 points per game are currently the third best in the league and his true shooting percentage of 57 is a new career high. However, DeRozan’s style of play is knownfor its inefficiency. He is an old-school player with an affinity for the mid-range and for free throws. The Lakers need to make those shots difficult for DeRozan while not allowing him to get drives to the rim.

Speaking of drives and free throws…

Stay Out of Foul Trouble

The Raptors are remarkably great at getting to the free throw line. Case in point: they average 26.6 free throw attempts per game, the fifth best mark in the league. The Lakers’ bigs will need to contest DeRozan and Lowry’s drives without fouling so as to be able to stay on the floor in crunch time.

Limit Turnovers

No team has been better at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes than the Toronto Raptors. They currently lead the league with 20 points per game off turnovers. The Lakers’, meanwhile, have been among the worst teams at holding on to the ball, giving it away nearly 16 times per game.

Against pestering defense from Kyle Lowry and length and athleticism across the board for the Raptors, the Lakers’ ball-handlers will have to be nearly perfect. Playing mistake-free offensive basketball is the biggest key to keeping this game competitive.

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