The Toronto Raptors were awesome in the first quarter last night, and incredible in the third. Unfortunately basketball is a game of four quarters, and the Raptors let the Los Angeles Lakers walk all over them in quarters 2 and 4, and the Lakers came away with the 122-112 win.
O.G. Anunoby was a massive bright spot for the Raptors in this one; he was incredible on both ends, holding Anthony Davis in check on D, and scoring 31 points on just 14 shots the other way.
Scottie Barnes dropped a career-high 32 points, and Jakob Poeltl led all rebounders with 10.
The Lakers were led by D’Angelo Russell, who scored 28 points (15 of them coming from downtown) and dished 9 assists in his first game back from injury. Dennis Schroder scored 23 and had 7 assists of his own off the bench.
And make no mistake, the story tonight was the benches — well, the Lakers bench. The Raptors’ bench story only needs two words to be told: Total crap. The Lakers’ bench? Led by Schroder, they combined to score 61 points. The Raptors bench only scored 12, and Gary Trent Jr. had a goose-egg — and was -27 in 21 minutes.
Most frustratingly, the bench wasted a sensational third from the Raptors starters.
Leading by five, 90-85, the Raptors started the fourth with a Barnes+bench lineup. That in itself was alarming, as that group hadn’t distinguished themselves in second quarter, a frame the Lakers won 39-27. This time out, Thad Young was in for an ineffective Precious Achiuwa, joining Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Chris Boucher and Will Barton. It didn’t matter. The Lakers started the final frame on an 8-2 run, with Schroder and Austin Reaves (7 of his 18 points coming in the quarter) again leading the way. Barnes managed to get four back, but another Schroder J and a Russell three gave the Lakers a 100-96 lead.
Unsurprisingly, Nick Nurse went back to his starters, but it was too late. When Reaves drove to the bucket uncontested for a two-handed slam, you know there was no coming back. A Russell three with 6:33 to go slammed the door. He added two more down the stretch as the Lakers ran away with it.
It really can’t be overstated just how great the Lakers reserves were. Anthony Davis was invisible all night — just 8 points — but Schroder, Reaves and Rui Hachimura each scored 15+. The Raptors didn’t have a single bench player score more than five!
After that previously-mentioned disappointing second quarter, the Raptors brought it in the third. Trailing 70-62 coming out of the half, the Raps opened the third with a 9-0 run, five of them from Anunoby, to retake the lead. A beautiful Anunoby reverse soon pushed it to 77-72, and Barnes added four more before Reaves stopped the bleeding with a three-point play.
But guess what? Anunoby wasn’t done! He converted a tough alley-oop from Poeltl, then hit a short fadeaway plus the foul to extend the Raptors’ lead to 86-75.
The Lakers may be Hollywood’s team, but O.G. was the star in the third; he had 12 in the frame, on just six shots, and he snatched three assists too! He had 29 total points through three quarters, and held Anthony Davis — his primary assignment — to just six points on five shots through the same period.
Unfortunately, it was only downhill from there, as the Lakers closed the gap to 90-85 before the of the frame, and the Raptors went to their bench.
Things started out well enough! The Raptors got out to an 8-2 start, forcing turnovers on three early Lakers possessions and getting out in transition. That’s what happened on Wednesday night against the Clippers, so I certainly wasn’t going to count any chickens before they hatched.
Still, despite my reservations, the team looked good — at least on offense. The Raptors had 5 assists on their first 5 field goals, and started out 8-for-11 as they extended their lead to 17-7.
Anunoby took the Davis assignment early, and he did a great job, bodying up the Lakers “big” man and holding him to only two shot attempts in the first quarter. On the other end, Jakob Poeltl went to work down low, where Davis doesn’t want to bang; he had 6 of the Raptors’ first 14 points.
An Anunoby corner three on a sweet dish from Siakam extended the lead to 22-10, and forced Darvin Ham to call for time — to no avail, as Anunoby hit another right after the timeout, giving the Raptors their largest lead, 15.
Unfortunately, that’s when the tables turned. The Lakers responded with an 8-0 run; Davis hit a jumper to stop the bleeding, Russell followed that up with an and-1 and Hachimura drained a three to cut the lead to 25-18.
A nifty VanVLeet right-to-left layup pushed the lead back to 9. 33-24, but a couple of late Raptors turnovers gave the Lakers two opportunities before the end of the frame and they chopped the lead to 35-31.
Neither team showed too much interest in defense in the first quarter, as they combined for 66 points; the Raptors shot 58%, the Lakers 55%.
The Raptors bench couldn’t hold things together in the second, as the Lakers took the lead after Jarred Vanderbilt drained a corner three and Schroder hit a short jumper.
The Raptors responded with 4 straight points to put themselves back on top, but Vanderbilt hit another corner three to tie the game at 41.
Schroder had 7 of his 23 in the quarter, along with a couple dimes, making me wonder yet again why the Raptors pursued Otto Porter this past offseason, rather than Schroder. Not that I’m a huge Schroder fan or anything, but, he’s a proven backup point guard, which was such a glaring need for the Raptors after last season — while Porter played the same position as almost every player on the roster. Alas.
The Raptors slowly built the lead back to 53-47 about halfway through the second quarter, as the starters began to trickle back in. But Schroder and Beasely each knocked down threes, and Davis scored in the paint, giving the Lakers the 55-53 lead and prompting Nick Nurse to call for time. After a Pascal Siakam three, two crafty Russell layups sandwiched around a Hachimura dunk pushed the Lakers lead back to 61-58, and Russell dropped a three to give the Lakers their biggest lead at 6, prompting Nurse to call another timeout.
That didn’t help, as Hachimura scored two more buckets, part of a 13-3 run that pushed the lead to 68-58 before Poeltl stopped the bleeding.
Siakam finished his sub-par road trip with a quiet 12 point, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
The Raptors head back home now, after 1-4 on road trip that pretty much ensures the sixth seed is out of reach, and their best hope to make postseason noise lies in the play=-in.