Reigning NBA champions Toronto Raptors delivered a statement to the league with a convincing 107-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, August 1 (Sunday, August 2, Manila time).
Facing the team pegged to win the NBA title this season, the Raptors showed their championship pedigree with an outstanding second-half showing led by Kyle Lowry.
Lowry poured 22 of his 33 points in the second half as the Raptors outscored the Lakers 66-48 in the final two quarters.
As if the late explosion was not enough, Lowry added a career-high 14 rebounds and 6 assists in the win that saw the Raptors limit the Lakers to a season-low 35.4% shooting.
"We just got aggressive, [we] wanted to go out there and get the win," Lowry said. "We were out there doing too much talking. We just wanted to lock in and do our jobs."
OG Anunoby, who missed the Raptors' title run last season due to an injury, proved he is deadly when healthy as he recorded 23 points on a clean 8-of-9 clip to go with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Pascal Siakam added 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in the win, while Fred VanVleet chipped in 13 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds.
LeBron James delivered his usual numbers for the Lakers with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists, but he lacked sufficient help from his teammates in their first loss of the NBA restart.
Erupting for 34 points in their win over Los Angeles Clippers two days ago, Anthony Davis was shut down by the Raptors to just 14 points on a 2-of-7 shooting in 35 minutes.
Kyle Kuzma finished with 16 points off the bench for the Lakers.
The Lakers, atop the Western Conference at 50-15, and Toronto, 2nd in the Eastern Conference at 47-18, are both preparing for the playoff fight to come.
"Time will tell," James said. "We'll use these 8 games to try and gear up for the post-season but it's going to take time. Every game is an opportunity for us to get better."
Toronto took a 13-0 lead as the Lakers went 4:51 before scoring, but the Lakers rallied within 23-21 after the first quarter.
"They have a great defense," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "We did some good things, just didn't capitalize."
A 22-3 spurt early in the 3rd quarter pulled Toronto ahead 63-50 and a 7-0 run with James on the Lakers bench in the 4th quarter sealed the victory.
"Against a couple of great guys, we came in wanting to play well and we did a good job," Lowry said.
Earlier in the day, the Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, and Houston Rockets won their respective games. (READ: Clippers bounce back, Pacers win as Warren drops 53) – With a report from Agence France-Presse
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.