Three takeaways from Toronto Raptors solid win over Lakers

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

 The Toronto Raptors did what was expected of them, beating a bad team on their home court. What are the biggest takeaways from the win?

The Toronto Raptors entered Thursday’s game coming off one of their most embarrassing losses of the season. They had something to prove and an injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers were the perfect follow-up opponent.

LeBron James has not been the Raptors Boogie Man this season. After turning the city into LeBronto in last year’s playoffs, he returned with a far inferior team. On this night he still managed to rack up 29 points, six assists, and four rebounds. He was the game’s leading scorer.

In the other end, the Raptor’s star, Kawhi Leonard, had a strong night of his own. After missing the November tilt with the Lakers, he got his first look at James and company. Leonard finished with 25 points, four assists, and eight rebounds.

The Raptors were without both their starting and backup point guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. They also did not have Serge Ibaka who was serving one of the three games of his suspension that he was handed to him for his role in the fight with Cleveland Cavalier Marquese Chriss.

The Lakers were even more shorthanded. They were missing their starting point guard Lonzo Ball, swingmen Brandon Ingram and Lance Stephenson, and end of the bench center Tyson Chandler.  The Lakers could have used all those players.

The Raptors handled their business and beat the Lakers for the ninth time in a row. They now don’t need to see James again this season. Back on the winning track, we will evaluate the takeaways from this game.

In-game adjustments

The Raptors were able to make in-game adjustments to help them find success throughout the ballgame. The most obvious example is their play against Alex Caruso, a man who looks more like your next door neighbor who keeps talking about his lawn than an NBA player.  Caruso had a strong start and was getting to the hoop unmolested. He made his first five field goals on five attempts and set a new career high with 16 points.

The approach on him changed mid game. The Raptors began to respect his ability and sent help defense. In the fourth quarter, he blew past OG Anunoby but Pascal Siakam was already on the move. This adjustment allowed Siakam to get up and complete a chase down block. A few minutes later Norman Powell tightened up against Caruso pressuring as high as halfcourt, which then led to a steal.

Trust may be dissipating for Boucher

It appears as though Nick Nurse lost his trust in Chris Boucher. On a night where guys were given the opportunity to step up and fill greater minutes, Boucher fell flat. He had two points in eight minutes with a steal, a block, and three rebounds.

He was pulled from the floor while his former G-League teammate, Malcolm Miller, was given the opportunity to keep rolling. Miller, who had already played a game for the Raptors 905 earlier in the day, continued to see the floor for five more minutes. In that time he showed far more energy than Boucher.

Even Eric Moreland who managed five minutes of playing time showcased his strengths. Being on a 10-day contract, he put forth an effort one would expect of a player looking for a job.

Nurse clearly recognized Boucher’s lack of intensity because once he got the hook, he did not return to the game until the final minute, which by then was garbage time.

Boucher will get the chance to prove himself in future games. He will need to seize those opportunities if he hopes to regain the coach’s trust.


Turnovers continue to be a problem for the Raptors. After giving up 20 against the Cavs, the Raps improved slightly. They turned the ball over 17 times. They started and ended the game sloppily, making risky passes and not protecting the ball. In the first quarter, the Raptors gave back the ball five times and six times in the fourth.

A number of these turnovers were avoidable. With greater court awareness, the Raps could have stopped the ball being plucked out of their arms and passed the ball closer to their man. At one point, Patrick McCaw sent a bounce pass to a teammate’s feet who was already surrounded by Lakers. It is those plays that they need to watch back on film and reflect on how to make better decisions.

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The team’s starters were the worst culprits. Leonard turned it over four times, Siakam thrice and Danny Green thrice. Marc Gasol, who had an excellent shooting night lost the ball twice and Jeremy Lin once. Hopefully, the team cleans up this part of their game soon.