Well, that went quite well. Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby had some of their best performances of the year, the Raptors defense was a ferocious and cohesive unit, and the starlets of the mainstream media the Lakers, fell to the Raptors 107-92.
Find the Reaction Podcast here.
The start of the game is most easily identified by the Raptors 13-0 run to open things up. Defensively, the Raptors were quick to deny LeBron James the middle of the floor with Anunoby’s extremely strong point of attack defense. James was denied the mid-post, Anthony Davis was tracked well by the duo of Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, and the Lakers were immediately pushed out of their comfort zone on offense. The Raptors particular brand of offense found early success against the Lakers, as the cutting, filling, and dribble penetration got the Lakers big men in motion and the Raptors created good shots.
Anunoby’s strengths were on display as he found the cracks in the Lakers defense and showed out with a sharp 3/3 opening frame.
Nothing lasts forever though, and the Lakers were able to leverage a few advantages into good looks once they got a better sense of where the Raptors were rotating from. And the Lakers succeeded in slowing the Raptors down offensively in the half court. Both teams used their smarts and size to swallow up passing lanes and force pick n’ roll possessions into resets. The Lakers bench caused some havoc, and became the catalyst for a run. On the other side of things, the Raptors bench wasn’t quite up to par, and VanVleet was having a lot of trouble trying to create good looks for the Raptors. Basically, it fell to Lowry to jumpstart the Raptors offense, and he did so with relentless downhill attacking and foul baiting. Still, the Raptors went into the half down 44-41.
The Raptors snapped off a 10-0 run near the start of the third quarter, but the frame was not encapsulated by the offense at the top. Both teams figured out a little bit more about the other, and in reckless attempts to stagnate the others offensive progress, fouled each other a lot. The two teams combined for 26 (!) free throws. Davis put pressure on the Raptors backline, and Lowry continued to attack with reckless abandon off the dribble. Norman Powell came around a little bit as an offensive option, and despite not having his 3-pointer going, he was effective curling towards the hoop on pin-downs. The Raptors rode the offensive surplus to a 9 point lead. However (comma) the Lakers closed out the quarter with a flurry of buckets, largely due to sloppy Raptors turnovers and climbed back within 2 points.
The start of the fourth quarter was kicked off with four 3-pointers. Two from James, two from Anunoby. James was creator and finisher, parting the seas and inserting himself promptly into the game – Anunoby was the hammer at the end of team possessions for the Raptors.
Most importantly though, the Raptors switched up how they were getting some of their offense. VanVleet was leaking out and pushing in transition, Lowry and Siakam were getting the half-court touches, and Anunoby was a perfect 4/4 from the floor. Stretches of the game were pretty bland in what the Raptors tried to do offensively, but some possessions with Siakam handling in the pick n’ roll were a welcome surprise. And Lowry’s boundless rebound hunting got the Raptors jumpstarted in transition, a pillar of their offense.
When the Raptors captured their form offensively, the Lakers were left behind. Siakam and Anunoby played the James-Davis two-man game exceptionally well. With their go-to options drowning in a sea of doubles and rotations courtesy of the Raptors, the Lakers had little else to turn too. Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters provided some offensive punch in this game, but towards the end that wasn’t close to enough. Especially with Danny Green and Markieff Morris combining for a sobering 0-11 from downtown. The Raptors, with their depth, sped well past the Lakers. VanVleet showed out as a catch and shoot option, Gasol flashed middle for a baby hook, and the squad looked dangerous at every position. Both teams were tied at 83, and the Raptors closed it out with a 24-9 run.
Lowry’s constant pressure off the dribble eventually became a tidal wave of offense that rolled over the Lakers. Culminating in a highlight pull-up triple over Kuzma, and an overzealous Kuzma sending Lowry to the line for 3 free throws on his next attempt from beyond the arc.
Above all else, the Raptors flexed their defensive muscles all game. And that, coupled with some outstanding offensive performances from a couple players were enough to launch them well out of the Lakers reach. The staples of the Raptors game are still very much present, and so is their viability as a title contender.
Have a blessed day.