The impressive seven-game winning streak for the Los Angeles Lakers was finally broken as they lost at home to a shorthanded Toronto Raptors team, 113-104.
The Raptors entered the game missing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but it did not matter as the rest of Toronto’s players stepped up in the absence. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each proved to be difficult for the Lakers to stop as they hit big shots en route to a combined 47 points.
Los Angeles boasts one of the league’s best overall defenses but had issues stopping Toronto’s uptempo offense as they repeatedly looked to push the ball off misses or turnovers. As a result, the Lakers found themselves playing catchup late in the fourth quarter before they ultimately lost.
Head coach Frank Vogel discussed his team’s transition defense execution in his postgame conference.
“They’re the best, fastest team in the league… fastbreak points per game, we knew that coming in. We knew we had to execute offensively and when we didn’t, it was gonna be a runout that we couldn’t recover from,” Vogel shared.
“We’ve been showing great effort in transition defense and getting back in sprints and trying to make recovery plays, but that wasn’t always there for us tonight and it cost us.”
Playing small-ball lineups for most of the night, the Raptors made it a point to race up the floor in order to ensure the Lakers could not get their defense set and it worked as they were able to get to the rim for either layups or easy kickouts to their three-point shooters. Toronto outscored Los Angeles 32-8 in transition points.
There was a sequence late in the fourth quarter that illustrated Vogel’s point about not being able to get back on defense. With the Lakers down 12 points, Kyle Kuzma hit back-to-back three-pointers that cut the deficit to six. However, he would miss his next two attempts and the Raptors quickly ran out in transition where Siakam was able to score a pair of baskets that effectively iced the game.
While the loss was unfortunate, it serves as a good lesson for the Lakers not to take their foot off the gas pedal after going up by sizable margins.
Their defense has been able to make up for any slow starts or offensive lulls, but they will need to be better about keeping up their focus and intensity if they want to get back to their winning ways.