LeBron James Scores 18 Points as the LA Lakers slip to 4-6
Serge Ibaka scored a career-best 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors beat the LA Lakers 121-107 to improve to 9-1 and move to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Kyle Lowry added 21 points and matched his season best with 15 assists to set a club record of eight straight games with 10 or more assists. It was his seventh double-double this season.
Ibaka shot 15-for-17 from the field as the Raptors, who were without the injured Kawhi Leonard, made their best start to a season.
Pascal Siakam had 16 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, while Danny Green had 15 points, Jonas Valanciunas 14 and Delon Wright 11 for the Raptors.
Kyle Kuzma had 24 points for the Lakers while LeBron James added 18, but could do nothing to stop the Raptors, who had a furious start.
Ibaka hit his eighth field goal in eight attempts while Lowry picked up his ninth assist when the Raptors took a 34-10 lead with 3:45 to play in the first. Ibaka finished the period with 20 points and the Raptors led 42-17.
The Raptors were still clear by 21 points heading into the fourth – a lead that was trimmed to 12 with 4:14 left as the Lakers went on a 10-0 surge.
But that was as close as they got as they slipped to 4-6 and 12th spot in the West.
Over the past several years, when Ibaka spent most of his time floating around the 3-point arc as a power forward, he wouldn’t have come close to having this kind of a performance. But Nick Nurse, Toronto’s first-year head coach, has switched Ibaka to playing center full time this season, and the move has paid immediate dividends.
After Sunday’s outburst, Ibaka is averaging a career-high 18.1 points per game, while his 56.8 percent shooting percentage and 7.6 rebounds per game are the highest totals he has posted in years.
Raptors head coach, Nurse said: “If teams are going to play small like that and they’re gonna switch, then we can send him inside and he can either hurt them with the deep catch post-up, or hurt them on the glass. He did a little bit of both. But again, I thought he did a good job of catching, being strong, being fundamental, making some good, solid moves and being patient.”
Ibaka set the tone for Toronto’s romp with a blistering first quarter, scoring 20 of Toronto’s 42 points in the opening 12 minutes, outscoring the Lakers on his own in the process. He didn’t miss a shot until an unsuccessful turnaround jumper midway through the third quarter.
Speaking to the media after the game, Ibaka said: “Man, to me, the most important thing is about the team. We got a W, and I’m happier now than scoring a lot of points [in a loss]. It’s true I played great, but we got a W. To me, that’s most important.”
Lakers president Magic Johnson met with Walton last Tuesday about the team’s slow start, but Johnson told the Los Angeles Times the discussion had nothing to do with Walton’s job security and he’ll finish the season as the team’s coach “unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”
Yet expectations in Los Angeles are exceedingly high this season with LeBron James on board. James had a so-so game — by his standards anyway — with 18 points in 28 minutes. But even if James were knocking down triple-doubles every night, he needs help, and the team needs to find its lineup chemistry.
Next up for the Raptors is a tricky looking trip to the Utah Jazz on Monday evening.