Suddenly hot Lakers visit Raptors
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TORONTO -- The Los Angeles Lakers will be able to measure how much they have turned things around when they play the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.
After losing nine games in a row, the Lakers have won eight of their past 10 games, including four in a row following their 108-103 victory over the Bulls at Chicago on Friday that opened a five-game road trip.
"You kind of either fold or you figure it out," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "Our guys have seemed to figure it out, for now at least."
The Raptors have won their past five meetings against the Lakers since 2015 but should not be in a mood to take them lightly after losing the opener of a three-game homestand 97-93 to the Utah Jazz on Friday.
It was only the fourth home loss of the season for the Raptors, who have won 17 at the ACC and have the second-best home record in the NBA.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said the team was "down" during practice Saturday. The Jazz scored 12 of the final 14 points of the game and held the Raptors to 38.9 percent shooting. The Raptors led by six points with 2:24 to play.
"Everybody's disappointed that we didn't play well last night and gave up a game," he said. "After having a good game in Atlanta, then not having the right tone, the right sense of urgency to begin the game."
The Raptors (32-15) will try to complete a season-series sweep against the Lakers (19-29) Sunday after they won the first meeting of the season 101-92 on Oct. 27 at the Staples Center.
The Raptors had a similar domination against the Jazz in recent seasons, but lost Friday on Ricky Rubio's 3-pointer in the final seconds and DeMar DeRozan then missed his shot.
"There's an old saying, 'The way you start is the way you finish,' and we finished the way we started," Casey said. "And we have got to learn from it if we're serious about going somewhere. We can talk all this stuff about winning and beating people, but if you don't approach it and do the job the right way, from coaching staff all the way down to the players, we're not going anywhere."
"It was kind of a letdown in the first quarter, I don't know, and that was their run," said Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 28 points and 14 rebounds Friday despite finishing with five fouls. "They had a good start. We thought we fixed it, but in the third quarter they came back again. It was a tough game and they shot the ball well, so we have to do a better job to start the game and throughout the game."
Valanciunas has a team-best 14 double-doubles this season, and on Friday hit two 3-point shots in a game for the first time in his career.
Casey talked to his team Saturday about being ready from the start against the Lakers. "They're going to come out guns ablazing," he said. "They're a running team."
The Lakers also have found an identity defensively during their surge.
"Defensive stops," Walton said. "That is how you win consistently. So many NBA games come down to the end, and the players in this league are so talented that if you are not able to count on getting stops, it is 50-50 who wins those games."
"We're staying together, we're thinking defense first," said Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, who scored 25 points Friday. "The coaches talk about it every single day, every time we practice, every time we come into games, and we just talk about the defensive end first before anything. ...
"At some point you get tired of losing. At some point I think we lost some very winnable games, and I think some of it is us growing up and realizing some of our talent on the floor and how we can utilize each other."
Rookie guard Lonzo Ball remains out with a sore left knee for the Lakers, who are 7-15 on the road this season. They have not defeated the Raptors since Nov. 30, 2014.
Updated January 27, 2018