Morning Coffee – Sun, Aug 2

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Lowry takeover, OG makeover.

Nick Nurse isn't worried if defending champion Raptors remain overlooked

So, after winning their opening game inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, do the Raptors think anyone is listening? Toronto coach Nick Nurse said he isn’t convinced — and isn’t too concerned either way.

“Yeah, maybe,” Nurse said after his Raptors won 107-92 in the final game played Saturday night. “I don’t think anybody’s going to pay much attention, they don’t ever seem to, but it’s OK.

“Seriously man, we love to play the games and we like to compete, we know we’re tough to beat, we really do, and I think there’s a ceiling we can get to yet.”

If there’s a higher ceiling for the Raptors after this one, it will be because Toronto shot just 41.7% overall from the field and committed 14 turnovers.

What it won’t come from is better play on the defensive end. The Raptors were suffocating on that end, holding the Lakers to a dismal 35.4% from the field overall, and to just 25% (10-for-40) from 3-point range.

James led the Lakers with 20 points, but had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and was minus-20 for the game. Forward Anthony Davis, meanwhile, had 14 points and shot just 2-for-7.

“I think I remember one timeout looking down, coming out sometime in the second quarter, and I looked down and I said, ‘Jeez, we’re shooting 30% and we’re winning,'” Nurse said. “And that’s kinda what good defense is supposed to do, get you through some of those moments.”

Getting through those moments is easier when a team’s point guard excels, as All-Star Kyle Lowry did Saturday night, finishing with a line of 33 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. He did it all with his usual reckless abandon for his own well-being, too, constantly throwing his body around at both ends of the court.

He also said he was moved by having the ability to protest by kneeling during the national anthems of both the United States and Canada before the game.

“We just want to go play,” said Lowry, one of the players who was most actively involved in talks with NBA commissioner Adam Silver to get the entire bubble project off the ground. “Some guys are down here for different things, our job is to be professional basketball players. But also we want to send [a] message, uplift the Black Americans that’s out there, Black people around the world and that’s our job, to do that.

Lakers' offense is stifled in loss to Raptors – Los Angeles Times

Toronto set the tone early. The Raptors scored the first 13 points and caused the Lakers to miss eight of their first nine shots.

Davis scored only one point in the first half, constantly facing double teams. The Raptors attempted to neutralize his size with their own big men, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but also with frequent double teams. James scored just seven points in the half.

“When a team is doubling as much as they were, we still want to get him more involved than we did,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said. “But I thought he did a really good job of identifying the double teams where it was coming from and finding open shots for guys on the backside.”

That left a void that the Lakers’ bench filled, outscoring the Raptors’ bench 31-6. Kuzma led the group with nine first-half points. It’s what gave the Lakers a 44-41 halftime lead.

Davis scored immediately when the second half opened with a floater in the paint. But that didn’t lead to a shift for the Lakers’ starters.

Late in the third quarter, Lowry had outscored all of the Lakers’ starters 23-20. By the end of the quarter, though, the starters had accrued eight more points. The Lakers went into the fourth quarter trailing by just two. They had trailed by 13 in the third quarter.

After back-to-back threes by James gave the Lakers a short-lived four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, James glared out toward where a crowd normally would be. It was a mostly empty section, with Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka one of the few occupants.

Recap: Lakers Shut Down By Stout Raptors Defense In Seeding Game | Lakers Nation

Los Angeles reclaimed the lead late in the quarter thanks to an Alex Caruso three, but both teams tightened up on defense to cause several turnovers. Although the Lakers missed on a handful of open shots, they still went into the half up 44-41.

The Lakers looked tentative to start the third, passing up open looks from beyond the arc while allowing the Raptors to get into the paint. Much like the first quarter, Frank Vogel opted to go smaller by pulling McGee for Kyle Kuzma to help open the offense but the team still struggled scoring the basketball.

Kyle Lowry gave the Raptors all of the momentum after draining a three over Anthony Davis and immediately following it up by drawing a charge on JR Smith. Caruso provided a much-needed spark by creating plays on both ends while Davis looked to get going by earning trips to the free throw line, but they went into the fourth down 72-70.

James came out aggressive to begin the final period, nailing a pair of threes but OG Anunoby answered with two triples of his own to maintain Toronto’s lead. Both teams battled from that point on, trading baskets and defensive stops with the Raptors holding on to a slim advantage.

The Raptors would then take off, going on a 10-0 run to push ahead midway through the quarter. The Lakers attempted to make a bit of a push down the stretch, but Lowry was simply too much as the Lakers dropped their second seeing game, and 11th overall contest to the Raptors, falling

Kyle Lowry wills Toronto Raptors to gritty win over Los Angeles Lakers in re-opener – TSN.ca

If there was any question about who they were and how good they could be, it certainly wasn’t coming from anybody in their locker room. There aren’t many clubs that have established and embraced an identity quite like the Raptors.

They play hard, don’t quit, defend better than almost anybody else, and they’re in it for more than just one game, or one win. That doesn’t mean they can’t recognize and rise to a big moment, though. They may not believe in statement games, but they sure have a flair for the dramatic.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to pay much attention, they don’t ever seem to, but it’s OK,” said head coach Nick Nurse, following Toronto’s impressive 107-92 victory over the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers in its season re-opener on Saturday.

“Seriously man, we love to play the games and we like to compete, we know we’re tough to beat, we really do, and I think there’s a ceiling we can get to yet.”

The Raptors were led, as they usually are, by Kyle Lowry – a man on a mission Saturday night, and from the moment he arrived in the NBA bubble.

With the spotlight shining bright on Toronto’s first game of the restart – it was being broadcast nationally in the U.S. on ESPN – Lowry put on a show. Not only did he outplay the Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he nearly outpaced them himself – scoring 33 points and grabbing a career-best 14 rebounds, compared to 34 points and 16 boards from James and Davis combined.

“Nick says he’s gonna ease us back in and use it as exhibition but our competitive spirit, we have too many competitive guys out there that want to go out there and play and hoop and win games,” Lowry said. “Especially playing against a team like the Lakers, a team that is No. 1 in the West. The competitive juices get going.”

Lowry was brilliant. When the Raptors’ offence was sputtering along through the first three quarters, he put them on his shoulders – getting to the rim or the line, where he attempted 15 free throws. When he felt the momentum slipping away he took a charge or fought for a loose ball. When the game was in the balance, he hit big shots and made winning plays.

“He was vintage Kyle tonight,” Nurse said. “He was scoring and flying around and taking charges and competing and getting us some critical buckets and keeping things ticking over. He was great.”

Lowry, VanVleet explain Raptors' decision to kneel for anthems – Sportsnet.ca

Prior to the bubble, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was the last NBA player who decided not to stand during the anthem. He did so in 1996, and was suspended one game. To say a lot has changed would be a disservice to the seismic ways the world has shifted since.

This time, the league has supported its players decision to advocate for a cause bigger than basketball. On Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would not enforce a “long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem” because of “these unique circumstances.”

“It’s a big statement,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said after Saturday’s game against the Lakers. “I think we just wanted to treat it [kneeling for both anthems] as one. You know, our problems in the States might be a little bit deeper than what we deal with in Canada, but I think speaking with Chris Boucher and Oshae [Brissett] and some of our Canadian staff members, [we] just want to acknowledge that it does exist everywhere and we’re going to stand against it whether we be in the States or in Canada.

“…I think that was just an act of solidarity to stand against all types of racism all over the world.”

Raptors restart NBA season with win over Lakers | CBC Sports

The Raptors pounced on the Lakers — who’d edged the Clippers 103-101 in their opener two nights earlier — taking a 13-0 lead. But the Lakers replied and Toronto led just 23-21 to end the first quarter.

Los Angeles took its first lead of the game early in the second, then took a 44-41 lead into the halftime break in the low-scoring game between the league’s top two defensive teams.

Lowry’s reverse layup midway through the third capped a 22-3 Raptors run that had them up by 13. But the Lakers had sliced Toronto’s advantage to 72-70 with one quarter to play.

“He was vintage Kyle tonight,” coach Nick Nurse said. “He was scoring and flying around and taking charges and competing and getting us some critical buckets. He was great.”

Lowry was all for a full-speed reentry.

“Nick says he’s going to kind of ease us back in and use it as an exhibition,” Lowry said. “We’ve got too many competitive guys that want to go out there and play and hoop and win games, especially against the guys like the Lakers and with the team that’s No. 1 in the West. The competitive juices get going.”

James, who Raptors coach Nick Nurse had said was like trying to stop a “freight train,” knocked down back-to-back three-pointers early in the fourth, but Anunoby immediately replied with a pair of long bombs.

Anunoby, who’s rebounded from the COVID-19 lockdown looking better than ever, had a steal and running dunk, then VanVleet followed it up with a three to put Toronto up by 10 with five minutes to play.

Lowry drained a three over the outstretched hands of Kuzma with 3:01 to play to put Toronto up by 11, hollering animatedly to his teammates during the ensuing timeout. The big bucket put the game all but out of reach.

The Raptors “did a great job of really making other people beat them,” Kuzma said. “I think for most of the game they double-teamed Anthony and LeBron in the post and kind of left a lot of guys open to make some shots. We just didn’t hit shots tonight. We got what we wanted, great shots, open shots. It was tough for us to hit ’em.”

Toronto Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff – TSN.ca

Nearly five months after he’d played a meaningful game, and on a night that was bigger than basketball, Kyle Lowry had no plans to pace himself.

The Raptors’ veteran guard had 33 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead Toronto to a 107-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday in their opening game of the NBA’s much-anticipated restart.

“Nah, man. Nick (Nurse, Raptors head coach) says he’s going to ease us back in and use it as exhibition,” Lowry scoffed. “But our competitive spirit, we have too many competitive guys out there that want to go out there and play and hoop and win games, especially playing against a team like the Lakers, a team that is No. 1 in the West. The competitive juices get going.”

OG Anunoby had 23 points, while Pascal Siakam added 15 and Fred VanVleet chipped in with 13 points in the Raptors’ first real game in 145 days, and in a world that’s drastically changed in the time since.

LeBron James, who was singing along to “O Canada” when the camera panned past him, had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Kyle Kuzma added 16 points.

The NBA’s restart is unprecedented. The stakes, on several levels, are huge. Emotions are running high — and it was obvious from the night’s pre-game ceremonies.

Linking arms in a line behind the words “Black Lives Matter” on the court, the Raptors and Lakers kneeled for both “O Canada,” because of the systemic racism and police brutality that also exists north of the border, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”