For 20 minutes, the Lakers lived in the opponent’s paint, intercepted lazy passes and threw down highlight slams in transition.
The result was a 17-point lead just before halftime.
But Toronto weathered the onslaught. Instead of adding to their lead, the Lakers watched their offense dry up in the fourth, as the Raptors’ all-star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry led them to a 101-92 win.
“It was a 17-point lead,” Jordan Clarkson said. “We’re supposed to keep that, no matter how it is. Even if they’ve got two all-stars, we’re supposed to keep our foot on their neck, finish the game.”
But the Raptors managed to whittle that buffer down to six at halftime — in spite of DeRozan and Lowry shooting a combined 3-of-12.
Neither team was able to take control in a slugfest third quarter, but the Lakers’ second unit — led by Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Josh Hart — shifted the momentum in the fourth.
Kuzma — constantly active with put-backs, cuts and popcorn-machine pump-fakes —picked up his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Randle used a blend of quick footwork and overall strength to attack the rim for a team-best 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
And Hart — who competed with DeRozan defensively in just his fourth career game — hit a pull-up jumper to give the Lakers a three-point lead with seven minutes left.
“When the starters go out, we’ve got to keep the momentum or build momentum,” Kuzma said. “That’s what second units are for.”
But that’s when head coach Luke Walton reinserted his starters, and the Raptors feasted.
Over the next four minutes, Toronto went on an 11-0 run while the Lakers missed four shots and committed two turnovers. And Walton was most upset with how the group wouldn’t get back on defense in transition.
While the Lakers shot 3-of-23 from beyond the arc and coughed up 21 turnovers, Walton was “thrilled” with how the team fought against an Eastern Conference contender, particularly on defense.
“We competed our tails off,” Walton said. “We had a 17-point lead. We were winning in all the statistical categories, except the dang turnovers.
“We keep throwing the ball away on fast-breaks like we don’t care about scoring those points, and it’s killing us right now.”
Lonzo Ball had five points, seven rebounds and six assists on his 20th birthday. … Hart shot 4-of-4 from the field for eight points. … DeRozan led Toronto with 24 points, while Lowry had a triple-double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) despite shooting 4-of-14. … An audience of 18,876 — including comic-book legend Stan Lee and the Black Eyed Peas — attended at STAPLES Center.