LOS ANGELES — The streak didn’t go quietly. But it did go.
No team in the NBA has started as well as the Lakers, but a seven-game win streak came to an end Sunday, beaten out by the long strides of Pascal Siakam as he cruised to clinching back-to-back buckets in transition with less than two minutes left.
The eventual 113-104 defeat at Staples Center had fire from the Lakers (7-2), but not enough substance.
The No. 1 defense in the NBA held the Raptors (7-2) to a pedestrian shooting night, but couldn’t beat their fast break, as young legs led Toronto to a 32-8 advantage in transition scoring. LeBron James did many things in his fourth triple-double in five games (13 points, 15 assists, 13 rebounds), but he struggled to find his shot when the Lakers needed it. Anthony Davis led his team with 27 points and made a number of impressive stops with four blocks, but lacked offensive impact in the crunchtime minutes.
Many of the victories in the win streak had showcased the poise of the veteran Lakers, whose experience shone in clutch moments. But Sunday’s game against the banged-up defending champions wasn’t quite up to that standard.
“They’re the best fast break team in the league,” Frank Vogel said. “We knew that coming in. We knew we had to execute offensively, and when we didn’t, there was gonna be a runout we couldn’t recover from. We’ve been showing great effort in transition defense, getting back in sprints and recovering on plays, but that wasn’t always there for us tonight, and it cost us.”
It was the first Lakers loss since opening night against a Clippers team featuring Kawhi Leonard, the biggest star from last year’s Toronto squad. Even without him, the Raptors were formidable.
The Raptors were notably without Kyle Lowry (hand fracture) and Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle), with coach Nick Nurse gritting his teeth pregame about going into the game without two of the stalwarts of last season’s championship team. But Toronto’s depth — another key to its success last year — was well on display.
Fred VanVleet expertly dissected the No. 1-rated defense in the league with a combination of outside shooting (4 for 9) and savvy passing with 10 assists. Siakam had an inefficient shooting night (9 for 25) but still managed 24 points. And Chris Boucher, who had only played more than five minutes in one other game this season, was a match-up nightmare, totaling 15 points and three blocks as the Lakers struggled to keep up with the rangy forward.
It was the Raptors bench that keyed a 19-8 run to start the fourth quarter, taking a significant lead for the first time in the game after hanging close for most of the night. The Lakers, whose win streak has been defined by winning close games, couldn’t muster the stops necessary to keep their visitors at bay.
“They were shorthanded, but they still got championship DNA players,” James said. “We didn’t take that lightly. And the guys that came in gave them a good boost.”
On one of the final meaningful possessions, James missed a pair of looks at the rim, the second of which was blocked immediately into a transition scoring run for Toronto. The next possession featured what the Lakers thought was a foul on Kyle Kuzma, but the refs didn’t whistle on the play, and Terrence Davis scored a back-breaking three to put the Raptors up by 12 with just under four minutes to go.
A late rally seemed to be brewing when Kuzma, who has struggled shooting this season, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lakers within six. James made a pair of free throws to close the gap to 104-100.
But the next possessions were not kind: Davis airballed a 3-pointer, and Kuzma missed two more — leading to Siakam scores on the fast break.
A subplot of the early season was ruffled: Anthony Davis rose for a block and came down grabbing his right shoulder, which he jammed two weeks ago against Charlotte. Frank Vogel said Davis was examined by the Lakers medical team who deemed he could continue to play.
Davis acknowledged afterward that he’s still feeling discomfort in his shoulder. He was getting heat treatment on the bench to warm it up between stints.
“It’s really never a play I don’t feel it, but I’m gonna go out there and play,” he said. “Try not to let it affect my game, and just play through it.”
Entering the evening in the bottom five of the league in 3-point shooting, the Lakers got a boost from their outside threats initially. Troy Daniels had all of his 11 points in the third quarter, with three 3-pointers.
A notable exception was Danny Green, who struggled on offense against his former team and went just 0 for 4 from the field.
Vogel said the Lakers would continue their process the next day as they have after the previous seven games. For the team, nothing changes after either a win or a loss, they said.
“We want to win basketball games, but I don’t think anything gets lost with us,” James said. “We’re not a complacent team.”
No look needed when you've got chemistry like this pic.twitter.com/exiCs0XM5s
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 11, 2019