Hollywood is where dreams come true. Unless you’re the Raptors playing a game with Ben Taylor officiating.
Toronto could not overcome Anthony Davis and a large free-throw discrepancy as they fell 132-131 to the Los Angeles Lakers. Davis was an unstoppable force as he scored 41 points — on only 17 field goal attempts — to go along with 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 lead-preserving block in the final minute.
Los Angeles was also aided by the whistle. The Lakers shot 21(!!) more free throws than the Raptors in the 4th quarter. Overall, they attempted 36 free throws while Toronto took 13.
This is called getting your money’s worth. Darko was hot after Lakers had 23-2 FT advantage in 4th Q: pic.twitter.com/BlwAzp7vhx— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) January 10, 2024
The Raptors had contributions across the board. RJ Barrett had a double-double with 23 points, 5 assists, and a season-high 10 rebounds. Scottie Barnes finished with 26 points and 6 assists before fouling out. Pascal Siakam had 25 points and a pair of huge threes late in the fourth. Immanuel Quickley had 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists before also fouling out.
Before the game, Jakob Poeltl was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain, which he sustained in Sunday’s win in Golden State. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks. Poeltl was seen on the bench in a walking boot.
With Poeltl out for at least two weeks — plus the recent departure of Precious Achiuwa — Toronto’s front-court depth was tested. Chris Boucher played tremendously off the bench in Toronto’s last game in Golden State while Jontay Porter was simply not deemed ready to go toe-to-toe with Anthony Davis. So, Darko Rajakovic elected to start Thad Young at Center.
The absence of Poeltl was felt immediately as Davis scored 9 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first four minutes.
Despite the disadvantage down low, the Raptors made it a priority to attack the paint. Only 6 of Toronto’s 24 first-quarter points were not scored in the paint. The Lakers, meanwhile, carried a 28-24 edge into the second as Davis led all scorers with 16 points in the opening frame.
While Davis was feasting on Toronto’s various defensive coverages, LeBron James was held in check. He didn’t score his first point until midway through the second quarter. James would finish with 22 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds.
For the first time since the trade with New York, the Toronto offense appeared stagnant. How much of that can be attributed to Poeltl’s ability to set screens and command attention around the rim is in the eye of the beholder. At halftime, there were shades of the pre-trade Raptors as they shot 4-of-17 from three and 3-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Barrett, who was coming off a brilliant 37-point performance in Golden State, continued his impressive start to his Raptors career. He led all Raptors with 16 first-half points, with 14 coming in the second quarter. Quickley, who was mostly invisible in the first quarter, also came alive in the second quarter with 8 of his 10 first-half points. The former Knicks combined for 22 of Toronto’s 29 second-quarter points, helping turn a 44-36 deficit into a 53-51 halftime lead.
With the outside shot not falling, Toronto was able to keep the game close and, eventually, regain the lead by constantly getting to the rim. After two quarters, the Raptors had outscored the Lakers 38-28 in the paint. That’s a particularly eye-opening stat because L.A. barely involved Davis in the second quarter, despite him having his way with Toronto throughout the first quarter. When he returned in the second quarter, the Lakers rarely set him up down low. After going 7-of-9 with 16 points over 12 minutes in the first, Davis went 1-for-1 with 3 points over 7 minutes in the second.
Maybe the slow start to the game could be attributed to the bike-riding fun the Raptors had in Santa Monica, but the starting unit came out of halftime with a much better performance. Toronto’s fastbreak came alive and Quickley nailed 3 threes to start the third quarter.
The Lakers bench turned things around for Los Angeles in the third. D'Angelo Russell and Max Christie hit a pair of threes as the Lakers scored on five straight possessions to give L.A. an 86-80 lead late in the third. The Raptors would answer by scoring on their final four possessions of the quarter and take an 89-88 lead into the fourth quarter.
With both of these teams hovering around a play-in position, there was a sense of desperation. Neither team led by more than 8.
Okay but can I PLEASE get more Scottie at the 5 minutes?! pic.twitter.com/ETFEr2soST— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) January 10, 2024
The turning point seemingly occurred with 4 minutes remaining. Davis drove at Barnes and missed an attempt at the rim but was bailed out with a late whistle. Rajakovic would lose his challenge and Quickley would pick up his fifth foul. On the ensuing possession, Quickley drove past Cam Reddish for a game-tying layup but was called for his sixth foul as he elbowed Reddish in the chin. The foul would be upgraded to a flagrant-one. Reddish would split the free throws to give the Lakers a 111-109 lead.
Siakam would answer with a corner three to give Toronto the lead. Austin Reaves returned the favour with a three of his own, followed by a transition and-one for Davis. With just over a minute remaining and the Lakers clinging to a two-point lead, Gary Trent Jr. hit a three-pointer to give the Raptors a 121-120 lead. Yet again, the Lakers would answer as Davis’ layup pushed LA ahead.
Barnes, who was as aggressive and assertive as he usually becomes in the 4th, drove at Davis but was blocked at the rim. Davis would hit a pair of free throws on the next possession, giving the Lakers a 124-121 lead.
On the biggest possession of the game, Barrett was called for an offensive foul while trying to screen Davis from getting to Barnes beyond the arc (who scored what would have been the game-tying three). Instead of a tie game, the Lakers received possession, hit a pair of free throws, and were able to hold on for the victory.
There’s no rest for the weary as the Raptors return to Crypto.com Arena on Wednesday night for a date with the Clippers.