L.A. defeats Raptors for third straight win

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The Los Angeles Lakers continue to string together wins when they need them, and they have a lot more fight than they have shown in a couple of years.

On Friday, they hosted the Toronto Raptors, a team that has a mediocre record but possesses plenty of talent and always plays them tough. Los Angeles hadn’t defeated the Raptors at home since the 2014-15 season, back when Kobe Bryant was still its leading man.

The two squads got engaged in a seesaw, topsy-turvy affair that was intense and fast-paced. Toronto went up 25-10 in the first quarter, but the Lakers fought back to take a 10-point lead just before halftime. After the Raptors reestablished a double-digit lead in the third quarter, L.A. went to a zone defense, which helped turn things around.

Anthony Davis and company outscored the visitors 37-22 in the fourth quarter, leading to a 122-112 victory. Interestingly, the team made much of its fourth-quarter run with Davis on the bench for the first 6:03 of the period.

The Lakers have now won eight of their last 11 games, and they’re now just one game behind the sixth-place Dallas Mavericks and 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers, who are in fifth place in the Western Conference.

Anthony Davis: C

Davis had a very quiet and lackluster offensive outing, scoring just eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and zero free throw attempts. His teammates didn’t look to get him the ball a lot, but some of that was because the Raptors prevented him from having the airspace to do his thing.

When he did get the ball, Toronto threw a lot of double teams his way and shaded an extra defender in his direction in order to prevent him from making a lot of forays into the paint.

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But Davis still got the job done defensively and on the boards. He grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots, which was an indication that he was engaged and active.

Meanwhile, the fact the Lakers won against a tough and talented opponent despite just eight points from Davis is an indication of their newfound depth.

Jarred Vanderbilt: B

Vanderbilt only had four rebounds in 30 minutes on Friday, but he helped out in other ways, including an unexpected one.

He is starting to flash more of his offensive abilities. He hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter, and he made each of his first five shots of the game, giving him a team-high 14 points in the first half. In the second quarter, Vanderbilt grabbed a defensive rebound and looked to go all the way on the ensuing fast break, where he drew a flagrant 1 foul and made both free throws.

He finished with 16 points plus two steals and one assist, and he even knocked down all four of his free throw attempts. He also saved a loose ball from going out of bounds on the defensive end, which resulted in a transition 3-pointer by D’Angelo Russell with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter to spark L.A.

Troy Brown Jr.: C+

After being on fire so often in recent weeks, Brown came down to earth somewhat on Friday. He went 2-of-4 overall and 1-of-3 from 3-point range to finish with five points, three rebounds and one steal.

D’Angelo Russell: A/A+

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This was Russell’s first game back after missing six straight with a sprained ankle, and he showed no ill effects from the injury. He got hot as the game wore on, and he had 16 points in the fourth quarter as he started hurling flame-throwers from the outside.

He finished with 28 points on 10-of-17 overall shooting and 5-of-8 from downtown, nine assists, five rebounds and one steal in 31 minutes. Four of his 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter when L.A. broke the game open and run away with it.

In crunch time, Russell shared the backcourt with Dennis Schroder, who had started in his place while he was injured, and the pairing seemed to work well at both ends of the floor.

The one downside for Russell was his four turnovers, with a few coming on lead passes in transition that were just a bit off. But perhaps that was to be expected in his first game back in about two weeks.

Malik Beasley: D

Beasley seemingly cannot buy baskets with any regularity as a member of the Lakers. He went 1-of-6 on Friday, including 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, to finish with only four points along with four rebounds.

Rui Hachimura: A

For the second straight game, Hachimura was very effective and efficient. He shot 7-of-9 and scored 16 points while adding three rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes.

He went 1-of-2 from downtown, and he did a good job of faking the 3-point shot to freeze a defender who was guarding him closely, then getting past that defender for a mid-range jumper.

Wenyen Gabriel: A-/A

In 15 minutes, Gabriel helped out with four points, four rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots. With Mo Bamba out for at least the next four weeks due to an ankle injury, Gabriel will continue to get significant playing time, and he will need to deliver in much the way he did versus the Raptors.

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Dennis Schroder: A-

Schroder returned to the bench on Friday, but he played one of his better games of late in multiple facets of the game. He shot 8-of-17 overall and 3-of-6 from 3-point land, and he hit several tough, contested shots, especially in the fourth quarter, to help the Lakers pull out this victory.

His seven assists and four steals were also a big factor, and he also managed to recover the ball a couple of times right after a Lakers turnover.

Schroder did commit six turnovers, and overall, L.A. had 20 turnovers, which helped keep the Raptors in this game. But it was able to rectify that problem in the fourth quarter in order to take control and emerge victorious.

Austin Reaves: A

Reaves has seemingly gotten better as this season has worn on. Against Toronto, he shot 6-of-10 and hit all six of his free throws to score 18 points to go along with five assists in 32 minutes.

He helped spark a Lakers rally early in the fourth quarter with seven points and a blocked shot in the first five minutes of the period. The undrafted wing is clearly a winning player, and he has become an invaluable supersub and Swiss Army knife for the Purple and Gold.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire

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