NBA

Raptors restart NBA season with win over Lakers

Kyle Lowry poured in 33 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors to victory in the team's opening game of the NBA restart on a night that was bigger than basketball. Both teams kneeled for the U.S. and Canadian national anthems before the game.

Both teams kneeled for U.S., Canadian national anthems

Raptors guard Norman Powell, left, drives on Lakers guard Alex Caruso during Toronto's win on Saturday. (Ashley Landis/Getty Images)

Kyle Lowry poured in 33 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors to victory in the team's opening game of the NBA restart on a night that was bigger than basketball.

Playing their first meaningful game in 145 days, and in a world that's drastically changed in the time since, the Raptors beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-92.

The Raptors and Lakers kneeled for both anthems. Linking arms in a line behind the words "Black Lives Matter" on the court, the Raptors changed knees in unison between The Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada, a powerful message of togetherness.

OG Anunoby had 23 points, while Pascal Siakam added 15 and Fred VanVleet chipped in with 13 points in a game many were touting as a potential NBA Finals preview.

LeBron James, who was singing along to O Canada when the camera panned past him, had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Kyle Kuzma added 16 points.

WATCH | Raptors, Lakers kneel for national anthems:

Before tipping off to resume the NBA season, the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers linked arms and took a knee in protest of racial injustice. 1:27

The NBA's restart is unprecedented. The stakes, on several levels, are huge. Emotions are running high — and it was obvious from the night's pre-game ceremonies.

The reigning NBA champions hadn't played a meaningful game since a victory in Utah on March 9, just two days before the NBA shuttered under the threat of COVID-19.

Nearly five months later, playing in unprecedented conditions that include virtual fans and piped in noise in the NBA's "bubble" at Walt Disney World in Florida, the Raptors quickly made up for lost time.

The Raptors pounced on the Lakers — who'd edged the Clippers 103-101 in their opener two nights earlier — taking a 13-0 lead. But the Lakers replied and Toronto led just 23-21 to end the first quarter.

Los Angeles took its first lead of the game early in the second, then took a 44-41 lead into the halftime break in the low-scoring game between the league's top two defensive teams.

Lowry's reverse layup midway through the third capped a 22-3 Raptors run that had them up by 13. But the Lakers had sliced Toronto's advantage to 72-70 with one quarter to play.

"He was vintage Kyle tonight," coach Nick Nurse said. "He was scoring and flying around and taking charges and competing and getting us some critical buckets. He was great."

Lowry was all for a full-speed reentry.

"Nick says he's going to kind of ease us back in and use it as an exhibition," Lowry said. "We've got too many competitive guys that want to go out there and play and hoop and win games, especially against the guys like the Lakers and with the team that's No. 1 in the West. The competitive juices get going."

WATCH | VanVleet, Anunoby team-up for incredible alley-oop:

Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby hooked up for a vicious alley-oop late in the Toronto Raptors 107-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. 0:37

James, who Raptors coach Nick Nurse had said was like trying to stop a "freight train," knocked down back-to-back three-pointers early in the fourth, but Anunoby immediately replied with a pair of long bombs.

Anunoby, who's rebounded from the COVID-19 lockdown looking better than ever, had a steal and running dunk, then VanVleet followed it up with a three to put Toronto up by 10 with five minutes to play.

Lowry drained a three over the outstretched hands of Kuzma with 3:01 to play to put Toronto up by 11, hollering animatedly to his teammates during the ensuing timeout. The big bucket put the game all but out of reach.

The Raptors "did a great job of really making other people beat them," Kuzma said. "I think for most of the game they double-teamed Anthony and LeBron in the post and kind of left a lot of guys open to make some shots. We just didn't hit shots tonight. We got what we wanted, great shots, open shots. It was tough for us to hit 'em."

Black Lives Matter shirts worn in warm-up

Saturday's game was the Raptors' first of eight seeding-round matchups each of the 22 teams are playing in the NBA's "bubble" at Walt Disney World. They face Miami on Monday.

The arena images speak of these extraordinary times. Video boards of 300 virtual fans have replaced the jam-packed crowds Toronto is accustomed to playing in front of. The Raptor mascot made a long-distance appearance, waving his arms madly, virtually, from a baseline video screen while James shot free throws.

Tipping off weeks after the killing of George Floyd sparked an uprising in the United States — numerous NBA players marched in protests in the days that followed — the NBA vowed that the return of basketball wouldn't be a distraction from racial and social justice issues.

They're front and centre at the NBA's restart. Both teams warmed up in black shirts with "Black Lives Matter."

The majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages, picking from a couple dozen drawn up by the league.

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