As Magic Johnson peered down from his suite inside Staples Center on Sunday night, the president of basketball operations saw a dreadful display of basketball in the first quarter from the Lakers that put them in a deep hole they were unable to pull out of even when they did find their competitive spirit.
They got drilled in the first, falling into a 31-point deficit to the Toronto Raptors before the Lakers showed some fight while dropping a 121-107 game before 18,997 sometimes disgruntled fans.
The Lakers had won an emotional game in Portland on Saturday night, breaking a 16-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers. But the Lakers looked slow and sluggish in this back-to-back game, their energy lacking even while facing a Raptors team playing without star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto shredded the Lakers’ defense in the first quarter, making 68.2% of its shots, 50% (six-for-12) from three-point range.
Once the Raptors built a 41-10 first-quarter lead, the Lakers were in catch-up mode.
Serge Ibaka, who scored a career-high 34 points, outscored the Lakers by himself 20-17 in the first quarter.
“I don’t know if we were tired from our game last night, or what, not that that’s an excuse,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “But it felt like that in the first quarter and they jumped all over us. They got want they wanted to. They got into a rhythm and it made it tough to stop after that.”
The Lakers took a stand after that dismal display of basketball in the first 12 minutes, cutting their deficit to 117-107 late in the fourth quarter.
But the Lakers knew it was too late.
“I was proud of our guys for continuing to fight, not that it matters,” Walton said. “But they competed throughout the whole game. They outscored (the Raptors) in the second, third and the fourth, but that deficit that we built in the first was just too much to overcome. But that’s a good team over there.”
The Raptors are tied with the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA at 9-1.
But Toronto was playing without its best player, Leonard, who was out with a sore left knee.
“In my experience, unfortunately most of the time that a player like Kawhi sits out, that teams ends up winning or at least they give a hell of a run,” Walton said. “We tried to explain that’s part of how this works, but it doesn’t seem like we took that to heart.”
The fans first voiced their displeasure at the Lakers after Ibaka did a pump fake and then blew by LeBron James for a dunk that drew a smattering of boos from the fans at seeing the Lakers go down 34-10 in the first.
“I mean, definitely gotta give them credit. Give credit where credit is due,” James said after scoring 18 points. “They’ve been playing like they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference so far. They just came out and hit us right in the mouth and that’s going to be very, very hard to make a game out of that when you’re trying to expend so much energy trying to get back in to it.”
The Lakers suffered their worst loss of the young season. But they don’t have time to wallow in that, not with the Minnesota Timberwolves in town Wednesday night.