After winning seven consecutive games on the back of defensive stability promoted by coach Frank Vogel, Los Angleles Lakers found themselves halted by the defending champions Toronto Raptors.
What was more noteworthy about the Raptors performance was that, they were missing the likes of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka due to injuries. And not mention how much they would be missing Danny Green who was playing for the opposition now and Kawhi Leonard, who they will be facing as an opponent on Monday.
After the match ended 104-113, Lakers coach Frank Vogel praised the shorthanded opponents.
“I just think they played a better Basketball game. Credit to Raptors, they were terrific tonight,” he told according to a press conference video obtained from Spectrum Sportsnet. “Their guys coming off the bench got opportunities to play, that they don’t normally get and made the best out of it. (They) got 18 for 29 and that really hurt us.
“I think we didn’t take great shots or we turn the Basketball over and they get out on the break.”
Lakers, who have relied heavily on transition defense so far, were exploited by the fast paced Raptors on Monday. Vogel admitted that his team wasn’t able to make the recovery plays and sprints quickly enough to match the “fastest team” in the league.
“They are the fastest team in the league (considering the) fast break points per game,” Vogel said. “We knew that coming in. We knew we had to execute offensively and when we didn’t it was going to be a run out that we couldn’t recover from.
“We’ve been showing great effort in transition defense, in getting back in sprints and trying to make quick recovery plays. But that wasn’t always there for us tonight, and it cost us.”
The Raptors had to make a few last minute adjustments owing to the injuries. Norman Powell, who started in place of the injured Kyle Lowry, scored 14 points in the game.
The Lakers were in fact leading at half time, and it was from the middle stage of the third quarter that the Raptors really seemed to pick up. Starting the fourth quarter, they had a 17-6 run with nine points from Chris Boucher, who had a career high 15 points. At this stage for the Raptors, all the starters except Siakam Pascal were watching from the bench.
About handling the new players on such short notice, Vogel felt that although it might not be the easiest job, he admitted that it was something his team should be dealing with.
“It can be (difficult),” he said. “Credit to those guys for stepping up and playing a really good Basketball game. It’s a different challenge. Not something that we can’t overcome (or not) the one that we shouldn’t overcome. But as I said, credit to Raptors. Those guys came in and were terrific off the bench in their minutes and sometimes that’s the way the game goes.”
Lakers will be facing Phoenix Suns up next on Tuesday and will be looking to get back to winning ways. As for the Raptors, they will facing another team from Los Angeles the very next day. More importantly, they will be facing Kawhi Leonard after Dany Green.