The Purple and Gold are now 19-19! ALEX KIRSCHENBAUM 24 MINUTES AGO
Tonight at Crypto.com Arena, a season-best scoring tear from Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis bailed out the home team against a switchy, relentless, sharpshooting Toronto Raptors club in an impressively chippy, high-scoring 132-131 Lakers W.
Davis’ versatile offensive game, coupled with some tactical defense, was LA’s saving grace, in a game where Toronto seemed to have an answer for every Lakers run.
The Brow wasted no time taking it to backup Toronto power forward Thaddeus Young, starting at center for an injured Jakob Poeltl.
He scored 16 quick points in the opening frame, helping power Los Angeles to a 28-24 edge by the end the first quarter.
In a major groove, Davis even took a heat-check triple (his first of two on the night)!
A 29-23 Raptors second quarter helped put Toronto on top by a possession, 53-51, at the halftime break. The Lakers had built out an eight-point edge in the first half, but couldn’t keep it late.
After that blistering start, Davis went quiet in the second period, recording just three points. He also registered five boards and four dimes through the first half. All-NBA power forward LeBron James had an uncharacteristically quiet five point. Christian Wood continued to make a case for rotation minutes even when Hachimura returns. He scored seven points in the opening frame.
The Raptors were the aggressors early in the third quarter, with starting point guard Immanuel Quickley raining triples to help Toronto eke out an eight-point lead midway through the frame.
Reserve LA guard D’Angelo Russell helped Los Angeles bounce back, with a 10-2 push that swung the lead back to LA late. Toronto closed out the period on an 11-4 run, thanks mostly to the efforts of its backup backcourt, ex-Laker Dennis Schröder and Gary Trent Jr. The Raptors held a one-point lead, 89-88, heading into the final quarter.
Head coach Darvin Ham opted to open up the final frame with both James and Davis playing, and ultimately decided to pull James at the 5:43 mark to rest the 39-year-old. He returned about two minutes later. Both teams exchanged buckets early on in the fourth.
Things got weirdly chippy late. There was clearly no love lost between Dennis Schröder and his former Los Angeles teammate D’Angelo Russell, who got in each others’ faces frequently and tried to draw fouls on each other almost as often. Immanuel Quickley, a new import from the Knicks, played a physical game with plenty of cutting drives. It eventually cost him, as the refs whistled him for six (semi-questionable) fouls and threw him out of the game with 3:52 left.
Davis, who had been largely dormant offensively in the second and third quarters, woke up in a major way for the fourth quarter. He bullied his way into the post at will, while also flexing his midrange game and, yes, making another heat-check triple.
After a slow first half, James put his head down in the third and fourth quarters, using his size and strength to best Toronto, especially in fastbreak situations.
But the Raptors would not be shaken. An equal-opportunity offense kept LA’s defense on its toes. The Lakers couldn’t create much separation. After a Davis layup, LA led by a sliver, 122-121, entering the game’s final minute.
A swarming Scottie Barnes was everywhere during the game’s last 30 seconds.
Toronto swingman RJ Barrett was called for a moving screen on AD, wiping Barnes’ potentially game-tying triple off the board with 24.8 seconds remaining. The Lakers suddenly had possession, while up a possession. Toronto had to foul LA.
Davis made two fouls, Barnes quickly ran in for a hammer dunk. All-Star Raptors power forward Siakam had to foul LA point guard Austin Reaves, who calmly knocked down both his free throws. Barnes slammed another flush over Max Christie, who definitely fouled him, although refs held their whistles.
James inbounded the ball towards Davis, and Barnes yet again was there, doing his best to pick off the pass. He didn’t quite connect, and instead had to foul Davis. Davis again made his foul shots, putting LA up five. Schröder made a quick triple over Reaves, cutting the lead to just two points. Davis was fouled, made both his shots to notch a season-most 41 points, on 13-of-17 shooting from the floor. Siakam nailed a buzzer-beating trey, but with the Lakers leading by four, it was too little, too late.
In fairness, discounting four tactical Toronto fouls (and eight subsequent Lakers points) in the contest’s final half-minute, the secret story of the game was some considerable home cooking from the game officials. The Lakers had almost three times as many free throws (36) as the Raptors (13), despite Toronto taking 50 shots in the paint (scoring 70 points) to LA’s 35 (scoring 50 points).
Without a little generosity from the refs, Los Angeles would not have returned to a .500 record (19-19) and embarked on a genuine (two-game) win streak tonight. The Lakers’ biggest issue tonight wasn’t their offense so much as their play on the other side of the ball, as they largely struggled to contain the Raptors’ athlete-laden roster.
As far as LA’s stars were concerned, the results were a bit mixed: LeBron James looked gassed early, Davis couldn’t sustain his hot start until getting reinvigorated in the fourth quarter. An uncharacteristically good scoring night from their supporting cast helped considerably, with five role players scoring 11 or more points behind James’ 22 and Davis’ 41. LA shot 16-of-36 from deep (44.4%), 28-of-36 from the charity stripe (77.8%), and 44-of-81 from the field overall (54.3%). The Lakers bench, generally a weak point, outscored Toronto’s reserves 34-26.
Four Raptors (Barnes, Siakam, Barrett and Quickley) scored 20 or more points, and three others scored in double digits.