Ryan Kelly to start vs. Raptors

Updated: January 18, 2014, 7:32 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

TORONTO -- Ryan Kelly will start in the frontcourt for the Los Angeles Lakers when they play the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, coach Mike D'Antoni said after Saturday's practice at the Air Canada Centre.

The rookie Kelly, a 6-foot-11 forward with a long-range shooting touch, had a career-high 20 points in the Lakers' 107-104 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday, to go with four rebounds and one blocked shot. He started the second half in place of Jordan Hill.

"He's going to give us toughness and smarts and move the ball and hopefully he'll hit open shots," D'Antoni said. "I just think we're a better team when we can spread the floor. That's nothing against anybody, except it's better for Wes [Johnson]. He has better games when we can spread the floor. It's better for Pau [Gasol] when we can spread the floor. It's better for Kendall [Marshall]. So, that's one of the things we like to do. We have a better tempo, better rhythm and everything is a little bit better."

D'Antoni said he wants to give the lineup with Kelly in it another chance against the surging Raptors, who have won 14 of their last 20 games, all starting with a 106-94 win against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Dec. 8.

"We're the ones that turned them around," D'Antoni said. "So, we owe them one. They're good, they're playing well. Dwane (Casey, Toronto's coach) has got them running a little bit more up tempo, and they're good. They've bonded together. It will be challenging."

Selected by the Lakers with the No. 48 pick the second round out of Duke University, Kelly will become the 14th different player on L.A.'s 15-man roster to start a game this season. The only player not included in that group is D-League call-up Manny Harris, who was just signed to a 10-day contract Thursday.

"Coach thought I brought pretty good energy [against Boston] and I worked my tail off, so he thought I earned it," Kelly said. "It's another incredible opportunity and it's something I need to take advantage of and just play the way I've been playing. It's not just about the fact that last game I scored more than I had, it's just playing with confidence, playing aggressive and being there for my teammates defensively."

Kelly is averaging 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game this season.

Kelly will play alongside Gasol, who sat out practice Saturday to receive treatment on his knee, but will face Toronto.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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