- Eric Martinez
D’Angelo Russell leads Lakers to 122 to 112 win over the Raptors
The Lakers have been a consistent team since the All-Star break in February. Coming into Friday night, the Lakers have won 5 of the last 7 games. Injuries have been a reoccurring theme for Los Angeles all year long, but several players have been able to contribute in all aspects of the game and not just scoring. Since acquiring Jared Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley the Lakers have climbed to 5th in the NBA in total rebounds per game (45.7 rpg) and 10th in the NBA for team opponent shooting percentage allowing (46.8%). The Lakers had a 39-point 2nd quarter on Friday to take a 70 to 62 lead at halftime.
With contributions from 5 Lakers that ended up scoring double digits, Los Angeles never looked back and maintained a lead throughout the second half as well. Jarred Vanderbilt ended with 16 points, D’Angelo led the way with 28 points, 9 assists, Rui Hachimura contributed 16 points off of the bench, Dennis Schroder with 23 points and 7 assists and Austin Reaves dropped 18 points to maintain the Lakers in 9th position in the Western Conference.
Even though Anthony Davis only ended up with 8 points and 9 rebounds, he contributed in major ways defensively and trusted in his teammates to pick up the scoring. Coach Darvin Ham noticed right away the contributions of his entire team. Coach Ham stated, “We were able to come away with this win against a really good team with only eight from Davis, that’s a sign of growth. That’s a sign of how deep and talented we are.”
Despite the lengthy absence from LeBron James, the Lakers are starting to round out the edges need to be successful in the NBA. For example, going 19 for 19 from the free throw line and shooting 43.3% from three-point range was impressive, as well as securing 35 rebounds as a team collectively. The issue of turnovers remains, as the Lakers turned the ball over 21 times and is a cause of concern still for the coaching staff. Despite that, D’Angelo Russell exploded for 28 points in his return from his injury to his right ankle. “I know this from being here (before): The fans are ready to explode at a certain point in the game. I just wanted to bring that energy and give them that… it shouldn’t go unnoticed, because our fans are the first to put a battery in someone’s back that has a little momentum, so why not do the right things, bring that positivity and embrace what our fans have to offer?”
The loss gives Raptors a three-game losing streak, but still maintaining the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference with a 32-26 record. Up next for Toronto is against the Denver Nuggets for a home stand that includes the next three games next week. The Los Angeles Lakers host the New York Knicks on Sunday before hitting the road for a two-game road trip at New Orleans on Tuesday, followed by a back-to-back on Wednesday night in Houston against the Rockets.