There was no buzz in the building, no sense of occasion and no chance of watching LeBron James in a Lakers jersey in his one and only trip to Scotiabank Arena.
Without the King, the lustre was decidedly missing on Wednesday night.
Having played the night before in Cleveland, the odds of King James suiting up against the Raptors were slim and none.
Technically, James didn’t play because of left ankle soreness.
Anthony Davis left L.A.’s game versus the Cavs with non-COVID illness and he was ruled out for the Raptors tip.
Not surprisingly, the home side jumped out to an 11-0 start with the game barely two minutes old, prompting the visitors to call a timeout and summon Russell Westbrook off the bench.
It was that kind of night, an uneventful evening on the hardwood that lacked relevance and importance.
The Raptors didn’t mind, a team that needed a visit by the putrid Orlando Magic to end a two-game slide.
Once again, all was right with the Raptors, at least against the woeful Lakers, who trailed 70-47 at intermission en route to a 126-113 loss, a scoreline that flattered the Lakers.
Incredibly, the point spread was 12.5 points.
Fred VanVleet went from scoring 26 points in a win over Dallas to averaging 9.2 points in his previous five games heading into Wednesday.
He poured in 18 in 18 first-half minutes, while dishing off five assists.
He ended the night by scoring 25 points, one of three Raptors to reach the 20-point total.
The Raptors, overall, were okay, but the Lakers were simply awful.
What was galling about the night was the amount of money fans forked over to ostensibly watch the King and perhaps Davis, who had been playing at a high level.
Instead, fans saw a shell of a Lakers team whose only name of note was Westbrook, even though he’s nowhere near the level of league MVP when he averaged a triple double for the OKC Thunder.
The show went on and the Raptors did show they are better than the Lakers, which isn’t saying much.
When the Raptors needed to be at their best Monday when Boston, the NBA’s very best, came to town, Toronto could not step up in big moments.
There were no such big moments against the Lakers in a game that lacked intensity.
This game, for all intents and purposes, was over even before the opening tap.
What played out was a mere formality because it was inevitable the Raptors would win.
Try as they did, the Lakers simply aren’t good.
Even with a healthy James and a fully engaged Davis, it’s arguable how good these Lakers are as currently constituted.
When James has played in Toronto, whether it was with Cleveland and then Miami, every visit was an event, one of those must-see and be-seen occasions.
At one point Wednesday, the Lakers went 4-for-24 from three-point range.
Then came a rare three-ball from Westbrook, his first make following three successive misses.
At the end of three quarters, the Raptors were leading 97-75.
Toronto started rookie Christian Koloko.
Once again, the big man showed he has a long way to go in his development.
Even against a shorthanded Lakers team, the kid looked lost and wasn’t able to stay out of foul trouble.
He re-entered the game with 5:31 remaining with the Raptors leading 115-93.
He picked up his sixth and disqualifying foul about 90 seconds later.
The Raptors began the fourth quarter by going on a 7-2 run with veteran Thad Young at centre.
Pascal Siakam served as the primary ball handler.
L.A. didn’t have anyone to match up against Siakam and he took advantage by posting a balanced game.
His Achilles heel involves making shots from distance.
Outside of making three-balls, there’s nothing wrong with Siakam’s game as he consistently flirts with a triple double each and every night.
This night would end with Siakam scoring 25 points, while hauling down 10 rebounds and adding seven assists.
With the game fully in control, Malachi Flynn was given minutes.
L.A. did make it a 13-point game with Siakam, VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby each on the bench.
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The status of Jauncho Hernangomez, who injured his ankle in Saturday night’s blowout win over visiting Orlando, remains relatively unchanged.
During is pre-game availability Wednesday, head coach Nick Nurse did say the first-year Raptor known for his spot-up shot making, is expected to be back by the end of next week.
Of course, only time will tell.
There was no update on Precious Achiuwa, who is also out with an ankle injury, and Otto Porter Jr. (dislocated toe).
The Raptors staged an alumni night with former players Mo Peterson and Charles Oakley in attendance. The crowd warmly applauded the two when introduced during a first-half timeout. Both could have easily suited up for the undermanned Lakers … Besides James and Davis, the Lakers were also missing Patrick Beverley (knee) and Wenyen Gabriel (shoulder) … LA.’s visit was the first for Darvin Ham as Lakers head coach. Ham was a frequent visitor when he served as an assistant for Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and later Milwaukee when the Bucks and Raptors met in the post-season. Ham had a decent playing career when he was known for his defence and team-first approach to the game … A disconcerting development played out near the Lakers bench when Juan Toscano-Anderson turned his ankle. He started at forward in L.A.’s no-name unit.
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