Lakers’ offense is stifled and struggles vs. Raptors continue with missed opportunity

Some games in the NBA’s bubble have led to conjecture about whether these gyms are easier for shooters or something about this setting aids offenses more than defenses. High-scoring games have been the norm in the restart’s first weekend.

That was not the case Saturday evening when the Lakers played Toronto. The Raptors stifled the Lakers’ starters for most of the game, and while the Lakers’ fourth-quarter effort attempted to turn the game around, the defending NBA champions would not loosen their grip.

The Lakers lost 107-92, letting a chance to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference slip from them. Saturday’s loss was their first in Orlando and 15th of the season. The Raptors have won 11 consecutive games against the Lakers, whose last win against Toronto came in 2014. Their shooting percentage of 35.4 was their lowest of the season.

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“That’s a great team,” LeBron James said. “No ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well coached and championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ballclub if you win a championship. And even before that, they just got playoff-tested guys. … The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi [Leonard] is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.”

James finished with 20 points, and Anthony Davis scored 14. Kyle Kuzma scored 16 off the bench. The Raptors were led by point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 33 points. OG Anunoby scored 23 and made eight of nine shots.

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.

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“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.

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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.

“I was trying to put myself in a road environment,” James said. “This was the Raptors’ home game. So taking and making big shots on the road floor is something that I relish.”

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Three observations

1. The Raptors are tenacious rebounders. Their anticipation and effort on the glass were apparent during an opening run and continued to be throughout the game. It provided an early edge that the Lakers never matched in losing the rebound battle 51-40.

2. Lakers coach Frank Vogel had hoped to find more playing time for Dion Waiters and JR Smith to help integrate them into the offense. The game didn’t really allow for that. Waiters played 22 minutes, scoring 12 points, and Smith played only eight minutes.

3. The Lakers attempted 40 three-pointers but made only 10. Toronto, meanwhile, made 41% of its threes, connecting on 14 of 34.

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