LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With a amount one seed in their grasp, the Lakers received a chance to look forward — but probably not the one they preferred.
For two meetings now, the Toronto Raptors have flummoxed the West’s No. 1 workforce. On Saturday evening, they swarmed LeBron James and Anthony Davis with duration and hustle. They sprinted down court for key transition buckets. And when James mounted a rally and received them back to an 83-all tie in the fourth quarter, the Raptors quashed it with a decisive 21-5 operate.
The 107-92 was the Lakers (50-15) initial loss in the NBA bubble, a reminder of the rust they are nevertheless shaking off. It was also the Raptors’ (47-18) bubble debut, and a reminder the defending champions are nevertheless serious about defending — and an unnerving preview into a possible Finals matchup ought to each teams progress that far.
“That’s a good workforce,” James mentioned just after, with terse respect. “No ifs, ands or buts. Extremely properly coached and championship DNA, you can in no way acquire that absent from a ballclub if you get a championship.”
It was the unusual evening the place the Lakers have been badly outscored with James (20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 helps) on the ground.
What was most annoying to the Lakers was the emotion that they did a ton right. Davis and James fulfilled double-teams for much of the night, hitting partitions in the paint in opposition to the likes of OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka.
They tried using passing out of those people double-teams, the textbook respond to. But a mixture of impressive sync from the opportunistic Raptors and frequent cold patches from shooters led to the clinching rally that was punctuated by an Anunoby rapid split and slam.
The starting off lineup was chilly shooting the ball: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was 2 for 7 with 5 points, and Danny Inexperienced did not hit any of his 7 shot attempts at all. The bench picked up their slack with 50 points, led by 16 from Kyle Kuzma. But the Lakers have been only 3 for 11 in the final six-and-a-50 % minutes of the video game.
Six-foot Kyle Lowry was somehow all points to his workforce: drawing prices and fouls and although also acquiring the very long-array contact (5 for 9 from a few) that the Lakers lacked. His 33 points paced the offensive work, but so did his 14 rebounds. Referee whistles in his favor only produced the Lakers’ stress mount — significantly in the fourth quarter as the Lakers simply just couldn’t near the hole.
The most rusty patch arrived at the really commencing, as the Lakers skipped their initial 7 photographs of the video game and authorized the Raptors to acquire a 13- direct. An early timeout did not shake them out of their funk, waiting around until JaVale McGee finally tossed in a hook shot close to the rim to place the Lakers on the board.
Anthony Davis experienced to wait even longer for his initial basket, not able to hit a shot in opposition to the Raptors for the whole initial 50 % — only two days eradicated from dropping a workforce-most effective 34 on the Clippers. He in no way caught much rhythm from the ground as the Raptors furiously denied him his favored baseline photographs and driving lanes, but he contributed again at the free of charge throw line, going 9 for 9.
Defensively, the Lakers experienced a ton to like, significantly keeping the Raptors beneath 42 percent shooting and racking up 12 workforce blocks (Davis experienced a few). But the final rally arrived the place the Lakers struggled last time: in transition, with a 22-10 margin in points off turnovers. Alex Caruso experienced a powerful defensive work, but fumbled late with a few fourth-quarter turnovers that quickened Toronto’s final operate.
Frank Vogel mentioned he thought the shooting will arrive for the Lakers, who have six game titles to in fact get ready for the playoffs with very little on the line until they begin.
“It appeared like the offense for us was forward of the protection in the scrimmage game titles and early on in camp or whatnot, but the initial two game titles it is been the other way about for us,” he mentioned. “Our protection has done genuinely properly, I imagine there is an component of if you’re functioning that tough on the defensive conclude you gotta be absolutely sure your legs are beneath you to make photographs on the other conclude, so I think that will arrive.”