March 26, 2015

It's probably wrong to say the Toronto Raptors are in danger of their third three-game losing streak of the season until they get to halftime of their next contest with a close score.

That's because the lowly Los Angeles Lakers visit Monday night with a three-game skid of their own on the line, and the first two have come with the game basically over by their first trip to the locker room.

While Toronto's six-game homestand started with a pair of defeats, they've been two of their closest games of the season, and the latest matched the tightest game the best team in basketball has had all season. The Raptors (12-9) fell 112-109 to Golden State on Saturday, and it was the second time they played the still-unbeaten Warriors close following a 115-110 defeat in Oakland on Nov. 17.

"We have to understand it's the best team in the league and we had them down to the last possession of both games," DeMar DeRozan said. "It just shows how good of a team we can be. We have to learn from it."

The loss came after Toronto trailed by 10 at half, then led by three with under four minutes remaining. Raptors coach Dwane Casey certainly isn't ready to put his team on the Warriors' level, even if they nearly matched them twice.

"They are (undefeated) for a reason," Casey told the team's official website. "I thought our effort was there, but again, consistency ... to beat a great team like that there can't be any 'oh crap' moments, and we had a couple of those."

There was very little individual blame to send Kyle Lowry's way. The guard scored 41 points on 14-of-26 shooting and 6 of 10 from 3-point range. Despite an off shooting effort in Thursday's loss to Denver, he's averaging 26.5 points and shooting 47.7 percent with a 43.4 percent mark from 3-point range in the last six games. The team's traditional No. 1 scorer is pushing for more.

"That's what he does," DeRozan said. "I'm trying to get him to be more of a scorer. He put his heart out there, and he just came up a little short."

That wasn't the case in a 102-91 win in Los Angeles on Nov. 20, giving Toronto its second straight win in the series. Lowry had a game-high 25 in the first meeting while hitting 7 of 11 from long range, and he's averaging 24.5 points in his last four games in the series.

Kobe Bryant was held to 10 points in the first meeting, and he'll try for better in his final game against the team he put up his greatest individual performance against. Bryant scored a career-best 81 points on Jan. 22, 2006, in Los Angeles against the Raptors, but he's a shell of that player - something that was again on display in Sunday's 111-91 loss in Detroit.

The former MVP, who has been battling a stomach bug, was 2 of 15 for five points as the Lakers (3-17) fell behind by 23 after 24 minutes. Two nights earlier, they trailed Atlanta by 16 at the break.

"We're just getting off to terrible starts," coach Byron Scott said. "We're not coming out ready to play, and that's something that can't continue if we want to win some games."

But Bryant's farewell tour of the league has probably been more difficult to watch than the team performances with their star shooting 26.0 percent in the five games dating to the announcement that this would be his final season.

Former Toronto guard Lou Williams had 21 points against the Pistons two nights after scoring 18 against the Hawks.

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