Raptors, Lakers will try to begin new year with win

LOS ANGELES — A visit to the City of Angels might be what the Toronto Raptors need to kick off the New Year on a high note.

The Raptors (22-10) will try to end a two-game slide when they play the reeling Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center.

The Raptors, who will be making the fifth stop on a six-game trip, lost to the Phoenix Suns 99-91 in their last outing on Thursday. Toronto, which fell to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, is 2-2 on its current journey.

Against the Suns, forward Patrick Patterson left the game with a strained left knee. Patterson, a key contributor off the bench, is listed as questionable.

“It takes away a spacer, a floor spacer and a knockdown shooter from three,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry told the Toronto Sun regarding Patterson. “It takes a guy out who can guard bigger guys, but you know, it’s next man up.”

Lowry and Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan have stepped up their usually stellar play this season, particularly in December. Lowry connected on a franchise-record 59 3-pointers during 14 games in last month — the most made in any month by a Raptor. Dee Brown, who made 54 3-pointers in April 1999, held the previous record.

Lowry’s 59 3-pointers ranks second in NBA history behind Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon’s 66 treys in the same month.

DeRozan, a native of nearby Compton, has been one of the NBA’s top performers this season. In December, DeRozan, who was sixth in the league in scoring at 27.4 points per game heading into Saturday’s games, averaged a team-high 25.5 points last month when the Raptors posted a 10-4 record.

DeRozan, who scored 30 or more points in five of those games, surpassed Chris Bosh to become the franchise scoring leader with 10,314 points in the loss to the Warriors. DeRozan also is the club leader in games played with 553.

The Lakers (12-24) can only marvel at the Raptors’ success. Los Angeles can’t seem to find its way out of recent tailspin, resulting in losses in six of the last seven games and 14 of 16.

In the Lakers’ last game on Thursday, they were clearly outplayed in the second half of a 101-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

“I’m very frustrated, but I’m still trying keep it all in perspective,” Lakers forward Julius Randle said.

Much of the Lakers’ frustrations have been the result of their defense. The Lakers ranked 27th in opponents’ scoring at 110.1 per game. They also have allowed the opposition to shoot 47.9 percent from the field, which was the league’s worst.

“I really thought we had turned a corner a little bit. I mean obviously you don’t fix everything overnight, but I thought we had made some big progress,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.

“I was disappointed to see that we had the same type of result again in a very similar game to what we have seen in the past week or two, but I’m still very confident that our group is going to get it.”

They will be pressed to do so against Toronto. The Raptors have captured the last four meetings with the Lakers.