Marc Gasol, Lakers Cruise Past Raptors Despite Injury-Depleted Roster

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2021

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 06: Toronto Raptors players and Los Angeles Lakers clear the bench and have words during the first quarter at Amalie Arena on April 06, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are slowly but surely playing better basketball without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Los Angeles improved to 32-19 on the season with a 110-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at Amalie Arena. Talen Horton-Tucker, Markieff Morris, Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso led the way for the Lakers, who are 4-2 in their last six as they look to avoid plummeting down the Western Conference standings without their two stars.

Solid showings from Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher and DeAndre' Bembry were not enough for the Raptors, who were without Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet and fell to 20-31 as their two-game winning streak came to an end.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

OG Anunoby and Montrezl Harrell were both ejected after this WILD play 😳 pic.twitter.com/yjndrs3ZkA

Notable Player Stats

  • Talen Horton-Tucker, G, LAL: 17 PTS, 6 AST, 4 REB
  • Marc Gasol, C, LAL: 13 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST, 4 BLK
  • Markieff Morris, F, LAL: 15 PTS, 9 REB
  • Alex Caruso, G, LAL: 13 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL
  • Dennis Schroder, G, LAL: 12 PTS, 9 AST, 2 STL
  • Pascal Siakam, F, TOR: 27 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL
  • Chris Boucher, F, TOR: 19 PTS, 8 REB
  • DeAndre' Bembry, G, TOR: 12 PTS, 5 REB, 5 STL, 3 AST

Lakers on Cruise Control from the Start

Head coach Frank Vogel told reporters Andre Drummond was also out prior to Tuesday's game, which meant the team had one fewer option that could lead the way in the absence of James and Davis.

It has been a different person in Los Angeles' last three wins, with Montrezl Harrell leading the team in scoring against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Schroder doing so against the Orlando Magic and Kyle Kuzma pacing the scoring against the Sacramento Kings.

Harrell removed himself from consideration early when he and Raptors forward OG Anunoby were ejected in the first quarter.

Bleacher Report NBA @BR_NBA


Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Alex Caruso is always ready to put his body on the line.<br><br>(πŸ“Ί: @SpectrumSN) pic.twitter.com/Owg0hFrG9Q

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Everybody firing the arrows tonight! 🏹🏹🏹 pic.twitter.com/NPtCjy5kvB

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Keef up to three treys in one quarter πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ pic.twitter.com/J5zWMII41Z

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Aggressive from the start 😀<br><br>(πŸ“Ί: @SpectrumSN) pic.twitter.com/KLqTKtUE5Z

Schroder committed a hard foul on Anunoby, who then unleashed something of a wrestling move to toss the point guard on the ground. Harrell then came running over and started shoving members of the Raptors, which left both teams even more short-handed than they already were at the start of the game.

The sequence didn't stop the Lakers from seizing complete control right away while building a 26-point halftime lead.

Schroder played the role of facilitator with red-hot shooting around him. The Lakers drilled 13 triples in the first half alone with Morris, Kuzma, Caruso and Wesley Matthews combining for 10 of them. Gasol was also impressive against his former team while battling for boards and facilitating from the elbow.

The second half was largely a formality from there, which was a welcome development for the Purple and Gold. While they don't need home-court advantage to win a title, every victory they can get without Davis and James will help prevent them from falling in the standings and creating more difficult matchups.

Short-Handed Raptors Can't Overcome Offensive Struggles

It's not too often a team can fall to 18-30 with a 1-13 stretch and still be right in the middle of the playoff hunt just two wins later, but that was the situation the short-handed Raptors found themselves in entering play Tuesday.

In a testament to the overall weakness of the Eastern Conference and the additional playoff spots available with this season's play-in tournament between the Nos. 7-10 seeds, Toronto entered play just one game behind the Chicago Bulls for the final postseason spot in the East.

Still, the Raptors looked nothing like a playoff team even against a watered-down Lakers squad.

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

18 &amp; 6 for Chris pic.twitter.com/wm6BwNYMoz

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

need a spark pic.twitter.com/Uy4jBfeLi4

While they were fighting an uphill battle without Lowry, VanVleet and Anunoby for most of the game, they also didn't even reach double digits in the second quarter until there was less than two minutes until halftime.

They looked completely lost on offense with Siakam (7-of-21) throwing up bricks against additional defensive attention, Malachi Flynn struggling to hit shots off the bench and the team as a whole shooting 5-of-33 (15.2 percent) from deep. Turnovers weren't even a massive problem with just six at the half.

Instead, the shots weren't falling for a team that has struggled with consistency throughout the season.

The good news for the Raptors is that Lowry and VanVleet will come back and the nature of the Eastern Conference means they are just one small hot streak away from securing a spot in the playoffs. But this franchise looks a long way from its 2019 championship.

What's Next?

Both teams are in action Thursday when the Raptors host the Bulls and the Lakers travel to face the Miami Heat.