Against a team this good, with shooters like it has, the Lakers had to be perfect.
The Toronto Raptors proved too efficient a foe on New Year’s Day, beating the Lakers, 123-114. The Raptors shot 56%, with guard Kyle Lowry scoring 41 points on just 16 field-goal attempts. Lowry made six three-pointers and also had 11 free throws as part of his tally.
Lowry scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly keeping Lakers comeback bids at bay. USC product DeMar DeRozan added 31 points for the Raptors.
“We were trying, we were communicating,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “They’ve got some All-Star Olympians that really carried the load for them tonight. They’re tough to stop when they’re hitting like that. I was proud of the way our guys competed tonight.”
The loss dropped the Lakers to 12-25 while the Raptors improved to 23-10.
Point guard D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 28 points, five assists and no turnovers, making six three-pointers. Shooting guard Nick Young made seven three-pointers, on his way to 26 points. DeRozan was also Young’s responsibility defensively until he got into foul trouble and the Lakers made a change.
“We’re not winning, so it’s not as good as you want it to be, but everyone’s figuring out their identity as a team and individually as well,” Russell said. “Some nights it’s going to be my nights and some nights it’s not, just have to recognize it.”
Toronto made its first four shots of the game, and shot 50% in the first quarter. Despite that, the Lakers were in it, partly because of the defensive intensity provided by a lineup they hadn’t used before. During the first quarter, the Lakers trotted out big men Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson in an effort to get a more defense-focused lineup on the court.
Black, who hadn’t played since Dec. 16 and had played only three minutes since Dec. 5, grabbed five rebounds in his first six minutes. He and Robinson combined for the Lakers’ final eight points of the first quarter, and the team went into the break leading by six.
“We both play with high energy so I think that was a factor, especially in the first half when we first did it,” Robinson said. “I feed off him, he feeds off me.”
At halftime, the Lakers trailed by one. After three the Lakers trailed by two. And even late in the fourth quarter, after the Raptors built a 19-point lead with the help of three three-pointers by Lowry, the Lakers fought back.
Julius Randle stole the ball with 5 minutes 15 seconds left in the game and took it all the way for a running dunk. He did it again a minute later, this time ending his fastbreak with a layup. Then he blocked a shot attempt by Jonas Valanciunas.
Together, the Lakers cut Toronto’s lead down to six points.
But every time the Lakers jabbed, Lowry punched back. In all, Lowry finished with 20 fourth-quarter points, seven of them on free throws, making five of six shots and grabbing four rebounds during that period.
“We did a pretty good job on Lowry most of the game and then he got hot on us in the second half,” Robinson said.
Added Walton: “He had it cooking.”