LeBron James And Big Finish vs. Raptors Help Lakers Snap 11-Game Road Skid

Lakers forward LeBron James throws down a dunk against the Raptors during the first half Friday night in Toronto.
Lakers forward LeBron James throws down a dunk against the Raptors during the first half Friday night in Toronto.

There is some fight left in these Lakers. There is some pride left in them. There is some passion for the game left.

There have been times this season when all that was in question, but on Friday night, they showed grit.

By following the lead of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers displayed a degree of determination in pulling out a tough, 128-123 overtime win at Toronto.

“Our guys stayed in the fight,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve had a tough season and there have been plenty of opportunities to quit and to let go of the rope and give in. And our guys haven’t done that. We’re staying together. It hasn’t always been perfect. But we really competed the last couple of games and didn’t get ‘Ws,’ and came out tonight and just did it for 48 minutes.”

James was a monster, producing 36 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots in 44 minutes 41 seconds. Westbrook was stellar, coming up with a triple-double of 22 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in 41:14.

And like James, Westbrook made big-time shots and big-time plays when the game called for it from the Lakers’ top dogs to carry them and help L.A. break an 11-game losing streak on the road.

“Yeah, we’re the loser of our last 11 road games and playing one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winners of five in a row,” James said. “To be able to come into a very hostile environment and win a basketball game in the way we won it was big for our team. And we literally need every minute, all 53 of them, to accomplish that.”

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James scores against the Toronto Raptors
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James scores against the Toronto Raptors

The Lakers were able to force overtime because of two outstanding plays by Westbrook.

He stole an inbounds pass in the final seconds of the fourth quarter with the Lakers down by three, then pulled up for three, moving his right foot behind the line just in time, squaring up and drilling it with four-tenths of a second left to tie the score at 116.

In Westbrook’s eyes, the “steal was probably the most important play,” because the Lakers got the turnover without fouling.

Then he had to “get to some space, get my hands free to shoot and move my foot back at the last possible second to make sure it’s a three-ball.”

“I looked very quickly [at the three-point line],” Westbrook said. “But I wanted to make sure I was behind it at least just so that I can get my foot back to shoot.”

In the overtime, with the Lakers down by one, Westbrook found Avery Bradley in the corner for a three-pointer and a two-point lead that grew to four after Bradley made two free throws to seal it with 12.6 seconds left.

So, a Lakers team forced to take on the Raptors even more short-handed, with Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington both out with non-COVID-related illness and Talen Horton-Tucker out with a left ankle sprain, found a way to win.

They got contributions from Wenyen Gabriel, who in his first start had 17 points on seven-for-eight shooting, three for three on three-pointers, from Bradley (14 points) and rookie Austin Reaves (10 points, seven rebounds and six assists).

“It was a great accomplishment to go out there on the road and be able to play the right way on both ends of the floor,” Bradley said. “It was really refreshing, man. A great win; on to the next one.”

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