Lakers-Raptors Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 19, 2013
With their four superstars together on the floor, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to build more chemistry while trying to turn things around on the road. Hoping to avoid their first five-game road skid in six years, the Lakers try for a fifth consecutive victory over the hard-luck Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Despite losing seven of nine, Los Angeles (17-22) was close to a victory Thursday before falling 99-90 at home to Miami. With Pau Gasol back after missing five games with a concussion, the Lakers went on a 14-3 run to take a three-point fourth-quarter lead before LeBron James helped the Heat pull away. "I thought we played well enough to beat them,'' Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's a championship team. "It's a good measuring stick. We have to get better. We've got to get smoother.'' Even with Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash together for only the 10th game this season, Los Angeles shot 43.1 percent, committed 20 turnovers and went scoreless in the final 2 1/2 minutes. "We couldn't get a rhythm and I thought we could have made a lot more money out of a lot of situations over the course of the night that we will down the road," Nash said. "I think we showed our lack of common experiences." Gasol, who didn't start, had 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and five fouls in 24 minutes. After scoring 53 over the previous two games, Dwight Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds but went 5 of 13 from the free-throw line. Kobe Bryant, who scored 22, found reason for optimism after Los Angeles held its third straight opponent to fewer than 100 points after giving up 111.8 in the previous six. "It's not much of a setback,'' he said. The Lakers begin a three-game trip trying to avoid losing five straight away from home for the first time since March 4-15, 2007. They may have a good chance to avoid matching that slide as they've won two in a row at Toronto and are 12-4 there overall. Bryant scored 27 and hit a fadeaway jumper with 4.2 seconds left to give the Lakers a fourth consecutive victory in the series, 94-92 at Air Canada Centre on Feb. 12. Howard averaged 30.0 points in his last three games there with Orlando. Hoping to avoid their third losing streak of at least five contests, the Raptors (14-56) have dropped each of the last three by seven or fewer points - the past two in overtime. After falling 107-105 to Chicago on Wednesday, the Raptors blew a 19-point lead en route to a 108-101 defeat at Philadelphia on Friday. "When you want to become an elite team and that team wants to win and make the playoffs, you don't have an ease mode," said guard Kyle Lowry, who had 11 points and 11 assists against the 76ers. "You have to go hard and try to win every game and keep it going.'' Toronto has struggled to sustain anything positive with Andrea Bargnani out indefinitely and Jonas Valanciunas and Linas Kleiza day to day. Point guard Jose Calderon has totaled 50 points and 18 assists while going 21 of 32 (65.6 percent) from the field in the last two home contests versus Los Angeles.
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