I think I can properly recap this whole game with a single quote from the Lakers broadcast:
“Boy, if they look this good without Kawhi… yikes.”
A quick comment before we get into it. Kawhi Leonard missed this game, but it turns out that “GM LeBron” already played 82 games worth of defense on “player LeBron” this summer. This team is incredibly incompetent at defense, and shooting. Which it turns out, are important facets of the game.
Incredible scenes in LA. A sky-scraping performance from one Pascal Siakam, likewise for Serge Ibaka, who finished the proverbial plate of food left in front of him. The food, I suppose, is whatever guard the Lakers thought they could put on Ibaka. The Raptors made easy work of the Lakers, who were on a back-to-back. After a triumphant victory in Portland, the Lakers forgot to show up in Los Angeles. So enjoy the trip, and let’s discuss how this happened.
LeBron James graces the court, the crowd goes wild. A handsome bearded man, Blake Murphy, takes it all in. Perhaps the only man in the building who knows what’s about to come.
Kyle Lowry is pushing in transition every time up the floor, finding Danny Green for a triple after Nash-ing the pick n’ roll. Brandon Ingram gets a post-up on Lowry and joins a select group of players who can score on him there. Lowry goes back to the pick n’ roll and Ibaka converts on the short roll. He’s been so damn good on the short roll this year. An OBO play leads to a Green triple. Siakam ices Kyle Kuzma on the baseline for the third time in two minutes. The Raptors defense looks great after a blown rotation to start the game.
Green is really active off the ball right now, and Ingram can not keep up, as he’s getting caught on a ton of screens. Lowry finds OG Anunoby in the corner for a triple, and it’s 20-8 Raptors. In contrast to the Raptors dynamic play, the Lakers are stagnant. Their star player, James, is removed from most of the action right now. Somewhere in his head I’m sure he’s wondering why he thought this was the team he wanted. A betrayal of oneself akin to ‘Fight Club’, in addition to whatever movie James has coming.
Lowry finds Ibaka at the rim and he’s got 7 assists. He follows that up with a 3-pointer from roughly 25-feet away. Lowry is transported to another realm, in which Ben Simmons is a deity. Simmons begs Lowry to tell him his secret, mumbling something about “peach baskets” and “before 1979, it wasn’t even there”. Lowry whispers in his ear: “Shoot it, coward.” In a blind rage Simmons asks Lowry to meet him in the tunnel, Lowry waits, but Simmons never shows.
Flash back to this realm and Ibaka is bullying Lance Stephenson on the glass, easy buckets. Ibaka gets into the lane for a dunk and he’s already got 18-points. 34-10 Raptors as the Lakers call a timeout. The Raptors don’t relent, and they run this thing up to 42-17 after the first. Wow.
*Just noticed LeBron has grey in his beard. Sunrise, sunset. I was at a pre-season game at Staples Center this year, and when James walked out the crowd went nuts. A guy on the jumbotron removed a Kobe jersey, to reveal a James jersey underneath. It’s early, but it should be interesting to see what his mark on this franchise will be.
The second quarter starts with Jonas Valanciunas showing a hilarious lack of awareness. He got doubled in the post and CJ Miles was WIDE open in front of him. His head stayed down and he shoved his way into a foul, which is fine. Valanciunas’ passing has come a super long way and I love his place on this team, but man that’s comedy. Valanciunas is grinding in the post against the most annoying cave pokemon – Zubac sounds like Zubat – and he’s using the HM Flash. It’s 48-17 and the only offense the Lakers can produce is coming from *checks notes* Stephenson. Madness ensues between both teams bench squads and the game is scoreless for roughly two minutes. Siakam joins the action and Stephenson tries to shake him loose, to no avail. A Delon Wright-Valanciunas pick n’ roll creates a bit of offense for the Raptors.
James checks in and promptly gets a bucket, but misses the following free throw. If the Lakers are gonna bring this thing back it has to be now, but that probably won’t happen. James keeps going at the rim, but with Siakam glued to him, he doesn’t get any to go. Something noteworthy, Javale McGee shoots free throws with absurd arc. There’s time enough to fetch yourself a beverage with how long the ball is in the air.
On the other side of the court, Wright gets a put-back dunk. Rather than compose myself like a normal human, I knock all of my gummy worms off of my table and yell “A can of worms you’ve opened now, Walton.” I seem to have straw-manned Walton into a ‘Delon-hater’. Ingram knocks in a mid-range jumper, but the Lakers are still woefully inept. Miles joins Markelle Fultz’ “Who can shoot the worst three-pointer” competition. Promptly slamming the ball off the side of the backboard, consequently giving the Jerry West logo a concussion.
Lowry takes his 7th charge of the year during the same exchange. The Lakers string together a McGee block on Anunoby, and a cross-court pass to get a layup. Everyone is very excited, it’s only a 22-point lead now. I’ll save all of us a bit of time, the rest of the quarter was pretty similar to what preceded it. Let’s just watch Siakam murder the rim:
Oh yeah, Anunoby also put noted goober Rajon Rondo on his butt before throwing down:
The first half was almost exclusively good things. Ibaka was sublime, he didn’t miss a single shot, and he was awesome on defense. Green, Siakam, and Anunoby all did a terrific job slowing down the scoring punch of Ingram, and James. The Lakers looked dejected, and Lowry was handing out assists like mixtapes at Venice Beach. The difference in class between these two teams was astonishing, resulting in a 71-49 lead for the Raptors.
Green hits a triple to start things off. On night’s like tonight, you find yourself giggling at how good the Raptors are. Chief among them is Green, holy moly is he ever good. The Lakers string together a tidy 6-0 run to bring the lead under 20, but Lowry responds in kind for a layup. Siakam gets a steal and finishes at the hoop, directly after that, Ingram snakes the pick n’ roll for the 28th time, it results in nothing. Lowry is still running the offense like a dream, and he finds Ibaka for a layup. Ibaka is shooting 12-12 and I have no idea when he became Anthony Davis. The very next play, Siakam finds Ibaka for a dunk. #Mafuzzy has 30-points on 13-13 shooting, this is an abject catastrophe for the Lakers, as a GQ model is tearing them apart.
Something nice finally happens for the fellas in white and gold, as Ingram flies down the lane for a two-handed slam that was very Durant-esque. Siakam coughs it up to Lonzo Ball who takes it the length of the court for a flush. Ibaka gets a put-back, somehow piecing together his career-high in points, while not missing a shot. This game makes no sense in one of the best ways possible. It’s as if it’s not only raining men, but raining extremely handsome and capable men. Ibaka eventually misses a shot, and it came with James as the primary defender. Let it be known that James is still capable of locking down the league’s premiere talent.
The two teams trade a few buckets and the Lakers are still staring a score of 92-67 in the face. Nurse gets a little bit experimental and trots out a line-up of Wright-VanVleet-Lowry-Anunoby-Ibaka. James hits two 3-pointers, one of which is from the Staples Center logo, and suddenly the experimental line-ups are less fun. I’m almost certain this game has been on for 5 hours at this point, but it’s only half-way through the third quarter.
The Lakers wittle the lead down to 17, and Ibaka gets a dunk. It’s like he’s a prank, sent only to prank the Lakers. Lowry hits another triple, then James fouls Lowry and enters the “thinking man” pose. Powell checks in for Lowry, and to me that seems like the victory cigar. Valanciunas checks in as well, and the third quarter ends at 101-80. Good grief.
Valanciunas bullies Zubac for a good 3-4 minutes, which is really nice to see. With Ibaka playing out of his mind I had wondered if Valanciunas would ride pine all game. Luckily he’s back in and killing the Lakers on the glass and in the paint. Somewhere in the midst of Valanciunas’ dominance, Rondo hits a three-pointer (drink) and this game probably needs to end.
Valanciunas’ contributions from the bench are so unique in a game like this. The Lakers very much want to run and gun their way back in this, but Valanciunas’ efficiency in the post slows the game way down. Not only are the Lakers ill-equipped to stop Valanciunas, he completely dismantles the play-style they want right now. The combo of Ibaka-Valanciunas has been unreal this year. We’re spoiled as fans re: our big men. Giving rest to Lowry & co. while Valanciunas pounds the Lakers into the ground is nice.
Ball hits a couple triples back to back and Nurse responds with the starters + VanVleet. There’s roughly 3 minutes left, the Lakers are in the bonus and let’s see what happens. Green hits a three, wow man, he’s so good. Lowry draws his 8th charge of the year on Kuzma, and the game seems decided. ‘KLOE’ gets his 15th assist on a sneaky dish to Siakam, and makes a truly offensive left-handed scoop to close this thing out. 121-107, the dang Lakers didn’t stand a chance.
Fun Thing: Showtime erm… not Lakers
A lot of championship teams have that truly unique player that is completely unto themselves. Leonard and Lowry are both undeniable All-NBA, MVP type players. Siakam is that wildcard, man. He brings a litany of unique facets to the game. The problem-solving stress he puts on opposing teams is immense. Love this guy.
Hope everyone enjoyed the piece.
Have a blessed day.