While the Los Angeles Lakers got off to an encouraging start with a win over the L.A. Clippers in their first seeding game, they were once against stifled by the Toronto Raptors, 107-92.
The Raptors have been one of the surprise teams of the NBA this season as they managed to overcome the loss of Kawhi Leonard in free agency by proving they are still a force to be reckoned with.
A combination of lockdown defense, constant ball movement, and All-Star play from both Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam propelled Toronto to the top of the Eastern Conference and a viable championship threat.
Saturday’s win was the Raptors’ 11th in a row against the Lakers. While Toronto lacks a traditional super star on their roster, they still have to be considered for this year’s title because of how well they play on both ends.
“They won a championship for a reason. It wasn’t solely because of Kawhi, and obviously you see that. They got the two-headed monsters in Fred and Kyle that set the tone, and their wings are extremely good with Pascal and OG,” LeBron James said after the Lakers’ loss.
“They’ve got experience in the frontcourt at the center position in Marc and Serge, and then they’ve got a bunch of complimentary guys. They’re the team they’ve been all year. For us, I feel like we played well enough to beat them. We just didn’t have enough shots to go in.”
The media was quick to dismiss Toronto after Leonard’s departure — and they remain overshadowed by the Milwaukee Bucks — but that’s not necessarily a sentiment that is prevalent throughout league.
“That’s a great team. No ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well-coached and championship DNA. You can never take that away from a ballclub when you win a championship. And even before that, they’ve got playoff-tested guys,” James added.
“Guys that played not only here in the NBA in big games, but also in FIBA games as well. Marc has been in big games throughout his whole life, it seems like. They’re just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.”
It goes to show just how much coaching and execution matter in the NBA, and the Raptors are a prime example of a team who plays for and with each other. While the Bucks are the overwhelming favorite to make it out of the Eastern Conference, the postseason race may very well be closer than most expect.
For the Lakers, the loss was disappointing as they had numerous opportunities to seize the game but could not capitalize. They shot a woeful 29-of-82 from the field including 10-for-40 from beyond the arc, making it difficult for them to catch up in the end.
Still, it is no time to panic given the unique circumstances everyone finds themselves playing in. The purple and gold have a good chance to bounce back when they play the Utah Jazz.
LeBron admits possibility of legs not being there in jumpers
James had a subpar offensive outing against the Raptors as he score 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting. However, he had a brutal shooting night against the Clippers as he only had 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
His conditioning on the court appears fine, but James did not dismiss the idea that his legs may not be fully there yet.
“It could be. That’s an individual question, to me. Personally, my legs feel pretty good,” he said. “I was just trying to put the ball on target, trying to get my shots.”
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