LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Lakers had been on a roll. A seven-game roll to be exact. After dropping their first game of the NBA season, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers had been humming along in their last seven contests, posting a seven-game win streak and claiming the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Toronto Raptors busted the Lakers’ bubble and their win-streak with a convincing 113-104 win at Staples Center. It was a rather impressive win for the reigning NBA champs, who saw both Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard depart Canada via free agency for the land of milk and honey (Los Angeles).
Leonard went to the Clippers and automatically made them a title contender. Green opted to go play with James, who is hoping to bring his own championship or two to Los Angeles. On the eve before Veteran’s Day, the Raptors and all of their length, youth and athleticism, gave the Lakers and the rest of the league reasons to pause to that thought for a moment.
“They’re the fastest team in the league [with] fast-break points per game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We knew that coming in. We knew we had to execute offensively and when we didn’t, it was going to be a run-out that we couldn’t recover from. We’ve been showing great effort on transition defense and getting back in sprints and trying to make recovery plays. That wasn’t always there for us tonight and it cost us.”
While the Lakers and the Clippers have championship aspirations, the Raptors are the defending champs, and they are still a pretty good squad without Leonard in the lineup.
“They still have championship players,” James said. “Yeah, they were short-handed but they still got guys that are championship DNA players, so we didn’t take that lightly, and the guys that came in [off of the bench] gave them a good boost.”
With title hold overs Kyle Lowry (fractured left thumb) and inside enforcer Serge Ibaka (sprained right ankle) out of the mix for a while, Toronto (7-2) played the Lakers (7-2) short-handed. It didn’t matter. Veteran guard Fred VanVleet, who recorded 23 points and 10 assists, was one of six Raptors to score in double figures.
“It’s best show I’ve seen all year,” VanVleet said after the game. “I know coach has been hard on some of those guys [on Toronto’s bench] and being able to see them play and break through and have their moment, it was great. They’ve been working so hard and that’s what the NBA is about – waiting for your opportunity – and [I] couldn’t think of a better place to have it than in L.A. under the bright lights, against one of the best teams in the league. I want to give those guys a lot of credit. Chris [Boucher], Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson], Matt [Thomas], Terence [Jefferson], all of those guys were huge for us off the bench.”
Every time the Lakers would make one of their patented pushes down the stretch, VanVleet and his crew would answer with either a defensive stop or a quick, pogo-stick like offensive rebound for a bucket. The Lakers controlled the boards (51-43), but the difference in this contest was the second half, which Toronto owned.
The Raptors outscored the Lakers by seven points in the third quarter (26-18) and held a 35-26 advantage over Los Angeles in the final period.
“They scored 18 points in the third quarter. We have to get our offense clicking,” Davis said. “It killed us in transition. We had some good looks with mis-shots. [The Raptors] had some big plays but we have to be able to score the basketball a little bit more just for nights where our defense might not be there or they’2re making tough shots, but we’re fine.”
The Lakers, paced offensively by Davis, who put up 27 points and eight rebounds, shot 30 percent in the third quarter, and just 33 percent in the fourth period. From a defensive point of view, Toronto played smother ball all over the court in not allowing the Lakers to get to their spots on the floor.
James and Davis were both held to one field goal apiece in the fourth quarter. As far as Green is concerned, the Raptors shut out their former teammate for the entire game. Green went 0-5 from the field and did not score a single point.
Toronto forward Pascal Siakam, who scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Raptors’ road win, said the transition from a championship-caliber roster to a lineup that features some new faces, is a good thing.
“It’s been good. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for a lot of guys, so we’re all excited about the season and having new roles on the team,” Sikam said. “It’s fun. It’s just basketball and it’s just always fun to play with and against people you know or have played with for a long time. So it was fun tonight.”
Led by Chris Boucher’s nine points in the quarter, the Raptors shot 56 percent from the field. That was your ballgame in a nutshell. James finished the game with a triple-double (13 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds).
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!