With Patrick Patterson missing with a sore knee, the Raptors were going to need to see much better performances from their other units than they’ve seen so far this year to put away a struggling Lakers team. They did not get that, at all, to start the game, but found some excellent value from an unexpected lineup that helped them pull out the win.
This game started very poorly. The Raptors starters looked about as mediocre as they usually do - DeMar DeRozan started the game off on fire, scoring on his first few shots, but the team as a whole was sloppy, turning the ball over and losing the Lakers for open threes (which they hit). After a short successful stretch with both Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira on the court in a two-C lineup (outscoring the Lakers 7-3 over a couple of minutes) the Raptors went to a small ball bench unit with Nogueira at centre. From that point on, the Raptors were thoroughly outplayed by the Lakers bench, giving up offensive rebounds left and right. The Raptors entered the quarter break down 33-27.
The second quarter didn’t start much better, as the Lowry and bench unit also couldn’t find its magic without Patterson. The Lakers pushed the lead to as high as 12 as coach Casey slowly subbed alternates into the game, first Pascal Siakam, then Valanciunas, then Norman Powell. A unit of Valanciunas, Siakam, Powell, Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry finally clicked as a different version of the Lowry plus bench lineup, and went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 2 with six and a half minutes left in the half, when DeRozan checked back in. The starting lineup returned to some sloppy play, but some timely baskets from Lowry (who had 18 points on 8 shots in the first half) kept the Raptors in it up until the two minute mark. The usual DeRozan-led bench unit finished up the half with a frontcourt of Nogueira and Siakam, and pushed the game to a tie before a flagrant foul was called on Timofey Mozgov for tossing DeRozan to the ground on a drive. The Raptors closed out the half strong and took a 58-57 lead into the break, led by DeRozan and Lowry with 18 points each.
The second half started much as the first did - DeRozan came out strong, scoring well, and the Lakers, led by Nick Young, caught fire from three and pulled ahead again when DeRozan’s scoring dried up a little. After DeMarre Carroll (who struggled to keep track of shooters in this one) picked up his fourth personal foul with an offensive charge (yet another turnover for the Raptors, who had 11 at that point), Ross checked in for him with the Raptors down by 6. That unit shrunk the lead back to 1 by the time Lowry checked out with 3 minutes left, and the DeRozan plus bench unit (with Siakam and then Poeltl at PF) made another push to grab an 85-83 lead heading into the 4th quarter.
Heading into the 4th, besides Lowry and DeRozan, Valanciunas (12 points) was the only other significant offensive contributor - no other player had more than 5 points. The Lowry plus bench unit opened the 4th with Poeltl getting more minutes at the 4, and pushed the lead rapidly to 11 in less than two minutes. They did so with very active defence, leading to Ross hitting a three and Joseph taking command of the unit, hitting a midrange jumper and beating a switch to get a layup (and assisting on Ross’ three). Throw in some Kyle Lowry deciding he wanted to win this one (of the Raptors’ first 25 points in the quarter, Lowry had 12), and that unit pushed the Raptors’ lead to 16 with 6 minutes left, when the starters (with Joseph in Carroll’s place) checked back in.
The great effort from early in the game (4 blocks, 10 rebounds) seemed to catch up to Siakam, as he had a turnover and followed it up with fouling a three point shooter, his 5th foul. The sloppiness continued, with a botched handoff and a moving screen from Valanciunas allowing the Lakers to cut the lead to 6 with some hot shooting. Casey called a time out, but kept the same lineup in the game, and they seemed to wake back up at that point, pushing back against continued hot outside shooting from the Lakers to a 123-114 victory. Kyle Lowry willed the team to the win down the stretch, hitting two threes, one layup, two free throws and grabbing an offensive rebound leading to a Ross three. He’d end the game with a line of 41 points on 12 of 16 shooting, 6 of 7 from three, and 11 of 11 from the line. Throw in 9 rebounds and 7 assists as well, and you can’t ask for much more from your star player. DeRozan added 31 points on 25 shots, and Valanciunas finished with 14 points (on 6 of 7 shooting) and 10 rebounds.
With Patterson out, the Raptors needed star performances from their stars, which they got, and solid support, which came in the form of a good game from Valanciunas, a great defensive effort from Siakam, a few short bursts of bench scoring from Ross and Joseph, and some very valuable minutes from Poeltl in the PF spot beside Nogueira (the pair were +15 in 9 minutes on the night and helped power the defence during the run in the 4th to break the game open). The Raptors are back above .500 on this West Coast road trip, with one more visit to the Spurs before heading home.