The Toronto Raptors made their lone trip to face the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday and did so without their top star, as Kawhi Leonard sat out to rest a sore left foot.
While his absence may have caused the matchup to lose some of its luster, the Raptors certainly didn’t seem hampered by not having him on the court as they dominated the Lakers from the opening tip. Toronto had a 42-17 lead at the end of the first quarter and took a 71-49 advantage to the locker room for halftime.
Without Kawhi and against a Lakers’ frontcourt that is porous defensively, the Raptors decided to feed Serge Ibaka, who looked like the Ibaka that dominated in Oklahoma City that many thought was long gone. Ibaka was a perfect 11-of-11 from the field, including a three-pointer, for 26 points in the first half, along with six rebounds and two steals.
The rest of the Raptors balanced out the scoring in the first half, with no one else reaching double digits, but five others had at least six first half points. Kyle Lowry had nine points to go along with 12 assists, as he set the table for Ibaka and the rest of the offense to cook. Pascal Siakam added eight points and four boards, including the most emphatic two points of the evening for Toronto with this massive slam past LeBron James who made a late business decision not to end up getting dunked all over.
The Raptors have established themselves as one of the league’s best teams, and are in the conversation along with the Bucks as the best in the East right now while the Celtics continue to figure things out. The Lakers, on the other hand, are a team with flaws that seems to be a fringe playoff contender as constructed, and on Sunday the Raptors took full advantage of that even without their top player.