A smorgasbord of Kobe (and some pre-Raptors thoughts)
A website called Hardwood Paroxysm has declared March 11th Kobe Bryant Blog Day. Since around here, we generally refer to that as any day ending in Y, conceptually speaking it's nothing outrageous. But should you have a Kobe itch that needs scratching, there's a whole lot of stuff in here to read.
Some thoughts on tonight's game: Chris Bosh won't play, which obviously makes Toronto a very different team. They're extremely perimeter oriented as it is, and without Bosh (easily their most productive player) that tendency becomes even more exaggerated. Rasho Nesterovic becomes the closest thing they have to a post presence, and he ain't exactly Wilt down low. Both Toronto points, Jose Calderon and TJ Ford, are quick and capable of getting into the lane for drives and kicks. The Lakers, then, will have to close out on shooters. On the other end, limiting TOs and efficiently running the offense will help give prevent easy run outs for Toronto, and make them more one-dimensional.
Additionally, the Raptors, not a good rebounding team as is, are even worse without Bosh. So crash them boards, Lakers! Just watch the long ones off jumpers on the defensive glass.
Over at RaptorsHQ.com, they have their keys to victory posted. Click below for that.
"1) Andrea, Andrea, Andrea. Without Chris Bosh, who now will miss at least this and the next game on the road trip, the bulk of the scoring load falls on Bargnani’s shoulders. Bargs has played better lately but hasn’t had one of those “he just can’t miss” games in a while. Toronto needs that from him tonight to combat the likes of Kobe and Gasol, who really the Raptors have no answer for. In fact, Bargs may find himself matched up with the newly acquired Spaniard and needs to stay out of foul trouble while doing solid job against Gasol on the inside. Pau isn’t going to want to trail Bargnani out to the three-point line so Andrea needs to realize this, put the ball on the deck, and get to the rim. If he could get Gasol in early foul trouble (instead of the other way around) this might force Kobe into trying to do too much offensively at the expense of the rest of his team-mates. Or…it could mean he scores another 81 points…
2) Don’t get in a hole early. Toronto has had some horrendous first quarters to inferior opposition of late so the last thing I want to see this evening is a 37 to 22 lead for LA at the end of one. This means that the entire team needs to come out aggressive and looking to attack the rim. Settling for jump shots against a Lakers club that likes to get out in transition could seal Toronto’s fate early on and therefore it’s crucial to try and get some semblance of an inside-outside game going early. Yes I realize this is somewhat of a tall order with this club of jump-shooters and that’s why key 2b) here really is getting Rasho involved early. Without Bynum, LA is a bit soft on the inside, especially when Ronny Turiaf isn’t in the game. If Toronto can get Rasho some easy looks around the basket, and then use Humphries down low in the same way as they did against Seattle, this might then open up shots for Toronto’s jump shooters. This is an area where the Raps really miss Chris Bosh (the team has struggled from 3 since his injury) and without clean looks, the offense gets mired down and the Dinos have a tough time creating their own offence. The other part of the equation for preventing an early deficit on the scoreboard is quite evident I think; keep the Lakers off the glass!
3) Bench play. Early in the season many spoke of the Raptors’ bench as being “the deepest in the league.” Now the Lakers seem to have taken that title and based on the last time these teams met, it would be hard to argue the point. That’s why much like against Seattle, the Raps need a complete team effort to get this win. In their last encounter with the Lake show, guys like Radmanovic, Farmar and Vujacic made Toronto pay and Toronto can ill afford to let the same thing occur tonight, especially minus CB4."
I actually think the Lakers will put LO on Bargnani, which is a much better matchup for the Lakers, and leave Gasol on Nesterovic. Jermario Moon is a bit of a mismatch for Vlad in terms of athleticism, but since Moon isn't all that great an offensive player, that shouldn't be too big an issue. It's interesting to read about how others see this Lakers team, and that they worry about some of the same things we (or at least I) do- too many J's leading to easy run out opps, for example.
I'd be surprised if the Lakers let this one get away, considering what happened Friday and the stiff roadie they'll kick off Friday in New Orleans.