Lakers suffer another poor first quarter and can’t recover in loss to Raptors

Lakers' LeBron James goes up for a basket under pressure by Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet.
The Lakers’ LeBron James goes up for a shot under pressure by the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet (23) during the first half Monday night at Arena.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
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Thirty minutes before the Lakers tipped off against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night at Arena, LeBron James’ “game-time decision” status became a go for the otherworldly forward.

James had been listed as questionable because of left knee soreness and because the Lakers played at Phoenix on Sunday night, leaving him iffy for the second game of a back-to-back set.

Before Monday’s game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters that James would work on his body in preparation to play.


“He’s been sore and in a pattern of being sore the day after games,” Vogel said. “So we had thought there was a chance with the back-to-backs, he would sit out the second night.”

Obviously, James felt he could play, but the 114-103 defeat the Lakers suffered against the Raptors had to leave him and his teammates mentally and emotionally drained after their rally from another big deficit fell short again.

James had a solid game with 30 points and nine rebounds, playing 40 minutes 20 seconds.

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But James, who almost always talks after a game, win or lose, declined to speak with reporters after Monday’s defeat.

Talen Horton-Tucker responded to a poor outing with a strong one, racking up 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Russell Westbrook had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers (29-39). Gary Trent Jr. scored 28 points to lead the Raptors (38-30), who have won four straight on the road.

The Lakers got down by 28 in the third quarter, the pregame point of emphasis of not getting into big deficits meaning very little.

They got to within nine late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to cut the deficit to six, but Horton-Tucker missed a three-point try with 1:37 left and that was that.


“Our guys stuck with the game, and they keep fighting,” Vogel said. “They’re fighting through a tough season. And we’re not letting go of the rope. We do keep getting down, but it’s from not making enough shots, not executing well enough. But our guys are still fighting. I think there was a shot where we had a chance to cut it to six ... so we’re right there. Our guys stayed in the fight the whole game. They got down and didn’t let go of the rope.”

Lakers' Wayne Ellington pressures Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet.
The Lakers’ Wayne Ellington defends Toronto’s Fred VanVleet during the second half Monday night.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Lakers scored just 12 points in the first quarter, which was tied for a season low in a quarter. They trailed 33-12 after the opening quarter, one night after they gave up 48 first-quarter points to the Suns.

The Lakers have lost eight of their last 10 games. And it doesn’t get easier. They embark on a four-game trip that starts in Minnesota on Wednesday night and will face three teams with winning records. The Lakers have lost 10 consecutive games on the road.

In a season of full of low points, Vogel said “not one” when asked about the most frustrating part of the 2021-22 campaign.

There are times when it appears as if the Lakers’ spirit is broken, partly because their poor play puts them in such big holes.


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Like when the Lakers got down by 35 to the Suns and never got back into the game.

“There’s just too many times when we get into big deficits,” Vogel said before the game. “It takes its toll on your individual psyche and the psyche of your group. You’re constantly aiming to try to push your guys to be better and coaching them hard. ... It’s been very difficult. But we have shown throughout the year to rally and respond. Not well enough in-game but coming back with big games following up some of those situations.”

On Monday, the Lakers could not put together such a follow-up performance.