Serge Ibaka outscored the Lakers by himself in the first quarter, and he didn’t miss a shot until the third. He beat LA inside and outside on the way to the biggest offensive game of his career.
Thanks to Ibaka’s brilliance for the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard wasn’t missed by anyone except the Lakers fans who might have been hoping to entice him home.
Ibaka made his first 14 shots on the way to a career-high 34 points, and the Raptors didn’t need an injured Leonard in a 121-107 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Ibaka had 10 rebounds and didn’t miss a shot until 5:16 remained in the third quarter, finishing 15 of 17. He was overpowering while the Raptors jumped to a stunning 31-point lead in the first quarter, and he returned in the final minutes to close out Toronto’s eighth consecutive win over the Lakers.
“I was just focused,” Ibaka said. “I knew Kawhi was out tonight, so I just wanted to go out there and do my best.”
With the Lakers’ small lineups struggling to contain Ibaka early on, he became the first player to start a game 14 of 14 from the field since Shaquille O’Neal did it in February 2006, according to the NBA.
“That’s pretty cool,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “The best thing is he’s doing it with some real good composure. He’s getting in there and taking his time. He’s using his size, his power, and using pretty good footwork, so it’s something we can go to.”
Kyle Lowry added 21 points and 15 assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors, who haven’t lost to the Lakers since 2014.
“We really wanted to put some pressure on them and guard the ball,” Nurse said. “We got off to an unbelievable start. We looked athletic and fast all over the place tonight.”
Toronto didn’t let its huge lead dwindle significantly until the final minutes, when the Lakers’ youngster got the margin down to 117-107 with LeBron James on the bench. Toronto was forced to reinsert its starters in the final minutes to preserve the win.
“They’ve been playing like they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference so far,” said James, who finished with 18 points and six assists. “They just came out and hit us right in the mouth, and it’s going to be very hard to make a game of that when you’re trying to expend so much energy to get back into it.”
Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points and Brandon Ingram added 16 for the Lakers, who are 4-6 after their first 10 games with James after this defeat on the tail end of a back-to-back set that began with a gritty win in Portland on Saturday night.
“In my experience, unfortunately, most of the time when a player like Kawhi sits out, that team ends up winning,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “There’s a sense of freedom and joy that comes when a top player like that is out. We tried to explain that that’s part of how this works, but it doesn’t seem like we took that to heart.”