The Los Angeles Lakers exact revenge against the Toronto Raptors (128-123) in a game that went to overtime on the road on Friday night. It was a well-played excellent, and unusual team performance for the purple and gold, who snapped their three-game losing streak.
What went well?
The Lakers wouldn't have won Friday's game if it weren't for LeBron James' efficient 36 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists in 45 minutes. James went on full LeBronto mode and did what he has always done against the Raptors throughout his career, which was take over the game and break the hearts of Raptors fans. James hit several critical shots down the stretch and was the reason why the Lakers were in it in the first place.
Speaking of why the Lakers were in it, this was the first game in a while where Los Angeles started the first quarter with a sense of urgency. Unlike in their previous three games, L.A. was up 57-46 in the first 22 minutes against the Raptors.
The Lakers maintained a strong effort throughout the game thanks to James and Russell Westbrook's stellar 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five assists, and four rebounds in the first half.
The Lakers also got key contributions from rookie Austin Reaves, Wenyen Gabriel, Avery Bradley, and Malik Monk, who combined for 50 points to back up their superstars throughout the game.
A rare type of game-plan
One of the biggest reasons the purple and gold outplayed the Raptors on Friday was their unexpected creative offense. They had a team-high 33 assists because they were moving the ball, cutting to the basket, and finding the open shooter — a rare sight compared to their usual ISO offense they've played for most of the time this year. It helped that the squad played determined defense and outhustled their opponent when it mattered most.
Hopefully, this is the game-plan for the Lakers moving forward because Friday's performance made them look like a completely different team. Yes, James had to go ballistic and score 36 points, but it also helped that they found value in two-way contract signee Gabriel who provided interior scoring and stretched the floor on offense.
The using hero
One of the biggest heroes of the night was no other than Westbrook, who had the game-tying steal and hit the clutch shot that sent the game to overtime. The Brodie, who has heard all the scrutiny all year, had one of the best feel-good moments after hitting a three-pointer, which many probably thought wouldn't go in.
The best part about this iconic Westbrook three-pointer was that he made sure his foot wasn't on the line and released it just in time before the buzzer sounded — an absolute high I.Q. Play that he often gets discredited for.
Westbrook proved that he's still a high-level player on Friday night's game, especially during big-time moments. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Westbrook's game-tying three-pointer was his ninth career three-point field goal inside the final five seconds of the fourth quarter. This record matches the late great Kobe Bryant's second most over the last 25 years. Lakers fans got a feel of vintage Westbrook, and Brodie himself knew it too.
"Night like tonight are the reason why I stay true to (myself) and thankful to be able to play," Westbrook said after the game.
The Lakers' record (30-40) is still very bleak as they still stand in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, just barely above the New Orleans Pelicans (29-41) in the play-in bracket. Friday's game against the Raptors could've been a fluke, but at least it proved that Westbrook can still perform and that the Lakers can still be a competitive team if they play the way they did.