Lakers vs. Raptors score, takeaways: Kyle Lowry leads Toronto to a lopsided win over LeBron James and company

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have just found our fourth championship contender. Only two nights after taking down the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers were throttled by the Toronto Raptors, 107-92. They shot a miserable 35.8 percent from the floor and 25.6 percent from behind the line thanks in large part to Toronto’s No. 2 ranked defense. Former Raptor Danny Green didn’t make a shot. Anthony Davis was held to a paltry 2-for-7 from the field. 

The Raptors, meanwhile, got their traditional contributions from just about everyone, though it was Kyle Lowry that led the way with 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. In doing so, he helped the Raptors play spoilers not only for the Lakers, but for their rival Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams would have clinched the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences had the Lakers won. But alas, both sides will have to wait to clinch their places atop the standings. 

The win all but assures a No. 2 seed for Toronto, who now leads Boston by 3.5 games with seven remaining. That should give them the flexibility to manage their lineups in whatever way best prepares them for the postseason. The Lakers already had that privilege by virtue of their dominant regular season. Coming into tonight, it seemed likely that this would be the last battle between the Lakers and Raptors this season, but Toronto’s performance made something perfectly clear: a rematch between these two teams in the NBA Finals is absolutely on the table. 

There is nobody the Raptors can’t defend

Only two days after Anthony Davis made mincemeat of the Clippers, the No. 2 defense in the NBA held him to only 2-for-7 from the field. Their commitment to shutting him down was remarkable. At one point, he was even triple-teamed on the perimeter. Nick Nurse’s game-plan was clear: stop the star and let the bench try to beat us. The bench was excellent but the plan worked to perfection. Without Davis putting in his usual 25 or so points, the Lakers were held to only 92 points. There’s only so much a group of role players can do. 

The Raptors have stumbled onto yet another star

Let’s talk about OG Anunoby’s night. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting, perfect from behind the arc, while also pouring in four rebounds and an assist. Oh, and he also defended that LeBron James guy for much of the night. Ever heard of him? 

Toronto’s player-development staff is among the best in all of basketball, but their work with Anunoby has been remarkable. His development has been almost a mirror image of Pascal Siakam’s. He came into the league as an elite athlete that could defend, but slowly learned how to shoot and then handle the ball. Anunoby shot 38% behind the arc before the shutdown, and his dribbling has grown by leaps and bounds. If this is who Anunoby is going to be, the Raptors are every bit a true championship contender. 

The Lakers mixed it up defensively and found some success

The Lakers tend to be a fairly traditional defensive team. They prefer drop coverage as a method of funneling drivers into their rim-protection, a sound strategy when you play two big men most of the time. But with Avery Bradley out, their point-of-attack defense has lost its primary weapon, and so, the Lakers adjusted. They switched on far more screens defensively than they usually do, and while the Raptors finished with 107 points, most came off of hot fourth-quarter shooting. They held the Raptors to only 41 first-half points. That’s a nice weapon to keep in their back pocket against certain opponents, especially those that shoot particularly well. 

The Lakers have to be happy with their bench, at least

The Lakers are extremely reliant on their two superstars offensively, and under normal circumstances, getting only nine field goals from James and Davis would have been catastrophic. But boy, did the bench step up in this one. The Lakers got 49 of their 92 points from bench players, including 39 from the combination of Kyle Kuzma, Dion Waiters and Alex Caruso. Waiters and Caruso had positive point-differentials in the loss, a critical nugget considering how poorly the Lakers tend to play with LeBron off of the floor. After a dominant outing against the Clippers, it’s starting to look like the addition of Waiters is making a material difference for these backup units. They finally have a true shot-creator, and it’s making their lives so much easier. 

JR Smith isn’t ready for primetime. 

Okay, it was a worthwhile experiment considering how little was out there, but it’s run its course. JR Smith is not going to be a meaningful part of the Lakers’ rotation in the playoffs. In eight minutes, he committed two fouls, missed his only (bad) shot and committed an egregious turnover. His defense is not close to playoff-caliber at this stage. The Lakers were outscored by five points with him on the floor, somewhat surprising given the success the rest of their bench had. He’s just that washed up at this point. It should surprise few to hear that a 34-year-old that just spent a year-and-a-half out of basketball is not going to contribute to a championship push. Barring injuries, he should be glued to the bench for the remainder of the season. 

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