The key moment for the Lakers came late in the fourth quarter, when they trailed the hard-charging Toronto Raptors by nine and had gotten a defensive stop with a steal by Avery Bradley.
It was a moment that the Lakers couldn’t capitalize on as they tried to fight until the end Sunday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers took off on a rare fastbreak with LeBron James finding Kyle Kuzma on the wing, and the 6-foot-9 forward steamrolled in for a layup that could have cut the deficit to seven. But Kuzma missed and appeared to be fouled by Chris Boucher.
Toronto rushed down the court and Terence Davis made a three-pointer that put the Lakers in a 12-point hole with 3 minutes 50 seconds remaining in a game the Lakers eventually lost 113-104.
“We showed some kind of fight at the end, and that’s what really matters,” Kuzma said after scoring 15 points. “Toronto is a good team. Give them credit for beating us. But we got something to work with.”
Despite trailing 104-92, the Lakers fought back, getting back-to-back three-pointers from Kuzma, two blocked shots from Anthony Davis and two free throws from James to pull to within 104-100 late.
But the Lakers would not get any closer, their seven-game winning streak now a thing of the past, their record now tied for second best in the NBA at 7-2, half a game behind the Boston Celtics (7-1).
“You can’t win them all,” Kuzma said. “We just won seven straight, so it’s a hiccup and it’s time to refocus a little bit. Obviously we went on a seven-game, but we know throughout that win streak we didn’t really play as well and that kind of caught up to us tonight.”
That stellar defense the Lakers had been playing was pushed to the limits.
The Raptors made 51.2% of their shots in the second half and 43.8% of their three-pointers.
“It shows a lot about us as a team. We were still able to try to fight on the defensive end and make plays,” Bradley said. “It was just unfortunate they were getting out in transition and scoring on the other end. We couldn’t fight back.”
Kuzma still is trying to find his form after missing the first four games while recovering from a stress reaction in his left ankle.
He was six for 13 from the field and three for seven from three-point range. He had five rebounds in 24:19.
“It’s coming,” Kuzma said about his game. “Today was probably the first day I kind of felt some rhythm when I had actually had the ball.”