Lakers-Raptors Preview

The Los Angeles Lakers seem to be running out of gas on offense

as their longest road trip of the season winds down.

They’ve rarely had trouble piling up points against the Toronto

Raptors.

The Lakers go for an eighth win in nine tries against the

Raptors on Sunday in the final stop of a six-game trip.

A night after needing overtime to beat Boston 88-87, Los Angeles

(15-12) got off to a listless start against New York on Friday. The

Lakers shot 34.2 percent in the first half with Kobe Bryant

contributing 10 points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Bryant, the league’s scoring leader at 29.4 points per game,

finished with 34 but was outplayed by Jeremy Lin in a 92-85 loss.

Lin’s 38 points helped drop Los Angeles to 4-10 on the road.

“We didn’t have the energy to play well,” said Bryant, who was

11 of 29 from the field. “We didn’t carry it and we seemed very

lethargic.”

That seemed especially true for Andrew Bynum, who had his worst

game of the season offensively with three points on 1-for-8

shooting. The All-Star center also struggled against the Celtics,

missing 9 of 15 from the floor to finish with 16 points. He had

reached the 20-point mark in each of his previous five games while

shooting 64.6 percent.

“I did not shoot really well … in Boston either,” Bynum said.

“I am looking forward to practice … to go hard and try to get my

touch back around the rim. I have to be able to stay low.”

Bynum isn’t the only Laker struggling offensively.

Bryant has hit 38.1 percent from the field during the road trip,

while Derek Fisher has combined for 14 points on 6-of-27 shooting

in the last four games. Los Angeles has averaged 87.5 points on

39.4 percent shooting while losing three of four.

The Lakers are at 24.4 percent from 3-point range during the

road trip, including 2 for 12 by Steve Blake in the past two games

after he missed 13 with a rib injury.

A game against the Raptors (9-19) could help the offense find

its stride.

The Lakers have won seven of eight in the series while averaging

113.4 points, scoring no fewer than 105 in any of those games. Los

Angeles has won the past three meetings and is 24-6 all-time

against Toronto.

Pau Gasol, who has posted five straight double-doubles, has

averaged 23.8 points in his past six matchups with the Raptors.

Bryant has averaged 34.4 in his last 11 against them, a stretch

which began with his 81-point outburst Jan. 22, 2006.

Although the Raptors have regularly been run over by the Lakers,

they’re playing much better defense this season. They’re allowing

an average of 93.7 points – 11.7 less than a year ago.

Toronto’s defense blanketed Boston early on Friday, limiting the

Celtics to 14 first-quarter points in a wire-to-wire 86-74 victory

to snap a three-game losing streak.

“I thought our disposition was good,” coach Dwane Casey said.

“We talk about that a lot, guys coming out playing with confidence,

playing with swagger and we did that. That is the growth we want to

see.”

Building on the victory could be difficult, though, as the

Raptors have won back-to-back games on only two occasions this

season.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto’s second-leading scorer at 15.0 points

per game behind the injured Andrea Bargnani (calf), had another

solid performance with 21 points. DeRozan has reached the 20-point

mark in three of four games after scoring 11 or fewer in four of

his previous five. He averaged 19.0 points against the Lakers last

season.