(Ron Turenne/Getty Images)
LeBron's 29, Caruso's Career-High Not Enough in Lakers' Loss to Raptors
LeBron James left defenders in his wake. Whether it was sprinting past them in transition or muscling through them in half-court, James would not be denied from the hoop.
Yet his 29 points could only take the Lakers so far, especially against the team with the league’s second-best record. Longtime adversary Kawhi Leonard countered with 25 points (including five 3-pointers) to lead Toronto to a 111-98 victory.
LeBron did his damage in 32 minutes, as the Lakers (31-37) have begun scaling back his playing time in hopes of sparing him some mileage. He has averaged 31.0 minutes in his last four games, compared to 38.5 in his first 12 since returning from injury.
“It’s challenging for me mentally,” James said, “because I’m so accustomed to being out on the floor, especially when I’m healthy. But it was a conversation between myself, my trainer, the coaching staff and the front office.
“This is the direction they wanted to go with the rest of the season given the lack of success we’ve had with our ball club. I trust the people in charge. That’s what it is.”
Playing extended minutes without James presents its challenges, particularly for coach Luke Walton.
“With the injuries we have and LeBron watching his minutes, we’ve got to get creative with some of our lineups,” he said. “Making sure we have groups out there that give us a chance to win still.”
One of the players who has earned himself more time is Alex Caruso, who scored a career-high 16 points. The second-year point guard was actually most effective in tandem with LeBron, who found him cutting frequently during his 12-point second quarter.
“He’s got good size on him, he can attack the paint,” Walton said of Caruso. “I think playing with guys like LeBron and [Rajon] Rondo, who can find him when he gets open like that, helps him out. And defensively he always competes his tail off.”
While the Raptors (49-20) held L.A. at bay for much of the night, the purple and gold did have their chances.
They actually outshot their hosts, hitting 44.7 percent of their attempts, while holding Toronto to 39.6 percent.
Yet while the Raptors were without Kyle Lowry (ankle sprain) and Serge Ibaka (suspension), they outperformed the Lakers at the 3-point and free throw lines.
The Raptors hit 16 triples to L.A.’s seven, and 23 free throws to 15. They also shot significantly higher percentages on both.
Norman Powell had 20 points for Toronto, including a dozen in the opening quarter. … The Raptors have won nine straight against the Lakers, last losing in November 2014. … The Lakers had a 58-32 advantage in points in the paint. … L.A. had 21 turnovers but forced 17.