Raptors 121, Lakers 107
- The Raptors started this game on an incredible run, essentially putting the game out of reach after the first quarter with a 42-17 lead.
- On the defensive end, the Lakers became the latest Raptors opponent to not be prepared for their compete level and overall defensive intensity. This led to many difficult shots, and very few good looks.
- Offensively, the Raptors were incredibly sharp. They were great in transition, they executed sets well in the half court, and they exposed the Lakers’ weakness in the ball screen.
- The Lakers eventually adjusted in the 4th quarter on the defensive end, which caused issues for the Raptors for a 5 minute stretch.
- The Lakers didn’t help their cause tonight, as they seemingly had no plan offensively, no plan in the ball screen (until the 4th quarter), and LeBron was about as pedestrian as I’ve ever seen him against the Raptors.
- Kyle Lowry was outstanding. He was instrumental in the Raptors transition success, he dictated the pace of the game, and his insane competitiveness continues to rub off on his teammates.
- The Raptors found success tonight for a few reasons :
- They got stops and finished defensive possessions with good rebounds
- Their bigs, mainly Siakam and Ibaka, ran the the floor exceptionally well.
- The Raptors’ guards spaced very well to the corners.
Off the defensive rebound, the Raptors get down the floor very quickly. Ibaka forces Kuzma to protect the rim and Siakam spaces well to the corner. This is a great extra pass from Ibaka, but unfortunately Siakam couldn’t knock it down.
Again off the defensive rebound, Lowry pushes the pace. This time it’s Siakam who is flying to the rim in transition, and again forcing Kuzma to protect the rim. OG, like Siakam on the previous clip, sprints to the corner and has a wide open 3.
Notice two things on this clip – 1. Siakam and OG run their lanes perfectly causing LeBron to split those two and make no impact on this play, even though he’s the only player at the rim for the Lakers, and 2. Serge Ibaka completely pulls away from both McGee and Rondo and no one picks him up at the rim.
Last transition clip, but I want to stress how well Ibaka and Siakam put pressure on the rim in transition. They are constantly beating their defenders down the floor and leaving the floor balance defender completely helpless time and time again.
Half Court Execution
- The Raptors exploited the Lakers’ lackadaisical ball screen defense early and often in this game. They recognized that Lonzo Ball is not fundamental in his ball screen defense, and McGee relies too heavily on his length and is constantly out of position.
Kyle gets to the shoulder of Ibaka, creating separation from Ball. McGee gets pulled so far from Ibaka that he can’t get back in time, plus he’s standing up and not in stance. Also, LeBron loses sight on the back side where he could have stunted at Serge.
This is why the Raptors had success against McGee and Lonzo in the ball screen. Lonzo decides to force Lowry to the middle of the floor (which also happens to be his strong hand), applies no resistance, and loses separation. Very poor ball screen coverage.
This play is a microcosm of the Lakers defensively in the first half. There is no ball screen on this play, yet the Lakers defend it like there is. Watch Lonzo Ball – he opens his gate and allows Lowry to get downhill. In theory, he is trying to ICE Lowry and not let him get to the ball screen, but Siakam is 5 feet from the Lowry. He should just be covering Lowry regularly. Instead, him and Kuzma have to both cover the ball, forcing the Lakers to collapse on Siakam who makes an incredible pass to Ibaka for an open 3. The Raptors did exactly what you are supposed to do in the ball screen – make 2 players defend you, cause a 2 on 1 somewhere else, and take advantage of it. However, it cannot go without saying how poorly the Lakers were with their ball screen defense in this game.
Half Court Sets
- The Raptors seemingly got whatever they wanted on offense whenever their starters were in the game (and even when they weren’t). I had many different clips to illustrate that point, but settled on the following:
The Raptors ran their hammer set here with great success. They created a closeout off of the initial hand-off which forced 2 Lakers (McGee and Ball) to meet Lowry at the rim. Also, on the offside hammer action, two Lakers converged on Danny Green who simply moved the ball to where the extra defender came from, then to Ibaka for an easy jumper.
Again, the Raptors running their staggers action (a set they have run 50 + times this year) and getting a clean open look for Lowry off the down screen. They had the Lakers on their heels and got whatever looks they wanted in the first half.
The clip starts late here so I missed the beginning of the action, but this is another example of an action that the Lakers couldn’t handle individually. It causes 2 players to defend the ball, and the Raptors putting the ball in space and making easy plays.
Lakers Defensive Adjustment
- For the majority of this game, the Raptors got whatever they wanted from the Lakers. However, the Lakers did change the momentum of the game in the 4th quarter when they went to a much smaller lineup that could switch all actions.
- As a result of acknowledging that they were at a disadvantage in the post with a smaller lineup, the Lakers tried much harder defensively, and caused the Raptors to have a handful of empty possessions in the 4th quarter.
When the Lakers went small, they acknowledged their weakness in the post and therefore fronted the post and worked very hard to keep the ball from getting there. On the perimeter, the Raptors were stagnant as they tried to get the ball inside and settled for a contested shot.
This might have been the best closeout opportunity the Raptors got for a 5 minute stretch in the 4th. Even so, you can see how the Raptors have no real weakness to attack against the smaller lineup, and they settle with a contest 3 again.
On the next possession, they Raptors were still trying to exploit the Lakers’ lack of size in the post. For the Raptors, it seemed like they got into such a good rhythm of getting whatever they wanted from the Lakers offensively, that it took them a long time to recognize the adjustment the Lakers made defensively.
Once the starters came back in, Lowry felt like he had the best match-up on the floor, but struggled in back-to-back possessions to create a closeout situation, or enough separation from his defender to score.
- Eventually, almost 4 scoreless minutes later, the Raptors finally got a closeout situation and effectively ended the game:
Serge was able to seal his man on the switch in the ball screen and the ball went into the post. The Lakers had to double, and the Raptors capitalized on the closeout opportunity.
- Serge Ibaka’s performance tonight was very impressive. He was incredibly efficient, and made the Lakers pay for every mistake they made.
- I didn’t touch on the defensive end tonight for a few reasons:
- The Raptors were very good, and they made the Lakers execute at an intensity that they were not comfortable with, like they have done to many teams in the past 10 games.
- The offensive end was more interesting.
- The Lakers had no plan offensively. I was trying to figure out what their game plan was, but eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t really have one. They took sporadic shots, they didn’t move the ball well, and they often got beaten way to easily in transition off of regular defensive rebounds – all signs leading to a lack of an offensive game plan.
- What I found most interesting in this game was that the Lakers had a weakness on the floor defensively the entire game that they didn’t want to acknowledge. As a result, the Raptors got whatever they wanted to for three and a half quarters. When the Lakers decided to go small, they accepted the fact that they were giving something up defensively, which caused them to dig and work harder than they had all night.
- I never would have expected that in breaking down a game against LeBron James I would so rarely have mentioned his name, but he wasn’t his unstoppable self in this game. I think this is a result of the Raptors being much better than the Lakers, and the Lakers not figuring each other out yet.
- The Raptors scored off of a Spain action 5 times tonight – 5 TIMES! Three of them off of the sideline inbound play that they have been running all year, and twice in half court sets in the second half.
The most common read in the Spain action, the back screen hits the rollers man causing a 2 on 1 at the rim.
Same thing here, except the 2 on 1 is finished by the guard instead of the big.
Eventually, the Lakers saw the action coming but didn’t switch out the guard. Watch McGee here – he should be kicking Rondo out to avoid this mismatch in the post, but he’s not aware.
This is in the second half where the Raptors ran this as a half court set, and not a sideline inbounds. The Lakers look confused here as they switch late, and get sealed at the rim.
This is a great adjustment by the Raptors. Instead of screening the defender who switched onto the roller, Fred screens the defender who switched onto a ball handler (Lowry). Notice Fred’s defender, Rondo, who is waiting in the key to switch onto the roller – assuming Fred is going to screen the roller. When Fred screens LeBron, Rondo is far out of position and Lowry has a wide open 3.