He barely got the first wish and was denied the second as Toronto overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the Lakers, 101-92.
BALLIN’: Ball did what looks like is quickly becoming the norm for the rookie — he filled up the box score in rebounds and assists. Going into the game, Ball was averaging nine assists and nine rebounds. He had seven rebounds, six assists and five points in 31 minutes. He also had a nice steal and a wrap-around pass around a defender at halfcourt to a streaking Larry Nance Jr. for a dunk. He later connected on an alley-oop to Nance Jr. as well.
NOT BALLIN’: The Lakers led the Raptors by 17 with 3:56 left in the first half. That lead vanished about eight minutes later, as the Raptors went on a 17-9 run. Ball had three turnovers alone in the final 3:13 of the second quarter to help the Raptors get back in the game. Against John Wall and the Washington Wizards in the previous win, Ball was terrific in this department with just one turnover against an elite point guard.
The Lakers will live with his turnovers since they want their point guard to learn what he can, and can’t, get away with. On one particular play, Ball fired one pass too hard and too low for Corey Brewer to handle in what otherwise could have been a nice lob toward the rim.
And Ball’s long-distance shot continues to be off. Ball made his first 3-pointer in three games, but is just 1-for-14 from behind the arc during that stretch.
With 3:42 remaining, Luke Walton took his starters out, including Ball. Trailing 91-83, Walton was looking for a desperation last-gasp run and was unhappy with the starting lineup’s transition defense, but Toronto held on. To be fair to the rookie, the Lakers’ starters outside of Lopez struggled with their offense. Lopez was the only starter to finish in double figures with 13 points.
THE REBUILD: In their fifth game of the season, the Lakers are still very much feeling out their roles, rotations and what each can do. On this night, the Lakers made it clear they were going to go to Brook Lopez early. After taking eight shots in each of his previous two games, Lopez shot seven times in the first quarter alone. The plan got Lopez going early as he had 11 points in the first half before he cooled off and didn’t get as many consistent touches.
After having 19 and 10 against Washington, Brandon Ingram was a non-factor for most of this game with nine points and two rebounds. The Lakers just didn’t have enough offense down the stretch when Toronto took the game over. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also struggled offensively with just two points to go with seven rebounds.
Rookie Kyle Kuzma posted the first double-double of his career with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
BIG BALLER OF THE NIGHT: Julius Randle had another strong game and appears to be getting comfortable with his new role off the bench. Playing angry and inspired, Randle gave the Lakers energy and hustle on both ends with 18 points.
THE MATCHUP: Three-time All-Star Kyle Lowry got off to a slow start, but picked it up big time in the second half before finishing with a triple-double — 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Ball was seen at times running back and forth as Lowry ran off screens and did his usual thing, hitting 3’s or driving and kicking. This is the first time in Ball’s career that an opposing starting point guard went for a triple-double.
QUOTE-A-BALL: “I think he’s a throwback. He’s a throwback to Jason Kidd. He reminds me of a young Jason Kidd without the 3-ball [but] Jason started the league without [that shot]. His size, his demeanor, he has a calming effect on his teammates. Be doesn’t get rattled. I think the future is going to be really, really bright for the young guy. Everybody talks about his shot but his shot is going to come. He’s going to be a really good player in our league.” — Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who coached Kidd as an assistant in Dallas.
THE FINAL SAY: Ball flirts with triple-double numbers again, but his impact on this game was not what it has been. Walton even took Ball and most of his starters out in the final three minutes looking for a spark and keeping an eye on Saturday’s back-to-back game. Making matters worse was Lowry posting a triple-double.
The rookie has to keep taking – and has to start making – the perimeter shots opposing defenses are giving him. Until he can make 3s consistently, the Lakers will continue to go through roller-coaster stretches like they did tonight when they went up 17 only to fall behind by double-digits in the fourth.