The Lakers’ lack of perimeter scoring reared its ugly head on Friday night, as the visiting Toronto Raptors closed them out with a late 14-0 run to win 101-92. Veteran teams like the Raptors often know how and when to turn the screws, and the Lakers struggled as Luke Walton sifted through a perplexing substitution pattern, looking for answers. Kyle Lowry (11 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, 4-14 FG) and DeMar DeRozan (24 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 9-21 FG) did most of the heavy lifting down the stretch, and the Lakers clanked their way to a putrid 3-23 performance from 3-point range, dragging their team percentage down to just 28.7% on the season.
The night began with the Lakers playing nothing less than their best basketball of the season, as they carried their defensive effort over from the game against the Washington Wizards. They added a degree of transition efficiency to the equation as well, with the second unit of Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart, Corey Brewer, Kyle Kuzma, and Julius Randle being particularly effective. The starters kept the momentum going as they came back in, culminating in a 47-30 with 3:56 left in the first half. For a decent stretch of time, the Lakers looked like the best version of what they could eventually be. Perimeter defenders jumped passing lanes, Brook Lopez protected the rim, and Lonzo Ball orchestrated the transition attack.
The domination was short-lived, however, as Toronto closed the first half out with a 15-4 run to stay within striking distance. That carried over into the 3rd quarter, where five turnovers allowed the Raptors to get into a transition game of their own, and the vibrant half court rotations from the first half were gone. Jordan Clarkson had a particularly tough stretch, where a couple of questionable decisions and a lot of over-dribbling caused Luke Walton to bench him, leading to an unpleasant exchange of words between the two. Tyler Ennis was no better, vacillating between wild forays to the rim and ineffectual pick and roll play.
Walton pulled Clarkson out of the game and put Ennis in late in the 3rd. Lots of pounding the rock from JC (who slid to PG w/Hart at SG).
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 28, 2017
The second unit stopped the bleeding to begin the 4th quarter, and the game was tied 83-83 with 6:26 to play as the starters began to be re-introduced. The Raptors promptly went on an 8-0 run over the next 2:44, with Lowry and DeRozan asserting their will. The Lakers kept trying to get the ball to Brook Lopez in the post off of a cross screen, but quality defense from the Raptors and a lack of offensive counters left the ball in Larry Nance, Jr’s uncomfortable hands in the post. The results were predictable, and Walton decided to go back to his bench lineup, benching all five starters in the process. The second unit couldn’t stem the tide, the Raptors tacked six more points onto the run, and the game was essentially over.
The Lakers competed throughout and while this was ultimately a respectable loss, they simply lack the necessary perimeter scorers to be an effective offensive team on a nightly basis. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram bear far too much of that burden at far too young of an age. Jordan Clarkson is capable in some respects, but comes with some coach-infuriating problems of his own. This has a domino effect on the rest of the offense, contributing in part to the liberal shot selection of a player like Kyle Kuzma, as he learns to navigate NBA defenses while bearing an undue burden.
The effort is admirable and will win some games, but talent is still king. Of course, Darius is more Zen on the matter than I am, as usual. On to the next one.
Lakers losses like this can be frustrating, I know. I still take the long view. Like their overall trajectory & how they’ve played lately.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) October 28, 2017