Why LeBron James Didn’t Play In 4th Quarter Of Lakers’ Loss To Raptors
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While Kyle Kuzma scored the first basket of the game, the Los Angeles Lakers were largely blasted by the Toronto Raptors from there. The Lakers not only allowed 42 points in the first quarter, they mustered a mere 17 themselves.

The 25-point deficit was a franchise-worst mark for the first quarter of a game played in the shot clock era (1954-55). They made various runs during points of the second, third and fourth quarters, but the Raptors seemingly had an answer each time.

However, what was a rout for much of the night became competitive late in the fourth when the Lakers’ bench unit managed to cut their deficit to 14 points with 4:14 remaining in the game. It prompted the Raptors to call a timeout and re-insert four of their starters.

There was no such change for the Lakers, namely LeBron James remained on the bench. “There was a shot or two where if it went one way or the other, he was going to get back in there,” head coach Luke Walton explained after the loss.

“That group that cut it to that low was playing with great energy, they were getting stops, they were moving the ball. You kind of like to reward a group like that. And I had ‘Bron out for a while, on a back-to-back, it wasn’t going to be ideal to throw him back in there. But if we got close enough, we would’ve had him back on the floor to try to steal that one.”

While Walton outlined a scenario in which the 16-year veteran would have been called upon, James didn’t necessarily share the same view. “I talked to B Shaw, he came over to me about the five-minute mark and asked me if I wanted to give it another shot or let the guys go who were in there,” he said.

“I had been sitting so long, so I was OK with the unit that was playing well at that point in time.”

The Lakers never got any closer than 10 points in what finished a 121-107 defeat. James had 18 points to go along with 2 rebounds and 6 assists in 28 minutes of action. He logged 31 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first leg of the back-to-back.

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