Players kneel before an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

Players kneel before an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Kyle Lowry poured in 33 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors to victory in their 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.

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.

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 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.

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, 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.

L.A. 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.

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.

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 American uprising — 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.

The Canadian Press

NBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Almost every health region in the province saw an increase in overdose calls last year. (Blackpress files)
Overdose call numbers reach five-year-high in Maple Ridge.

BC Emergency Health Services responded to almost 500 local calls in 2020

Cam Blake released his first album called <em>Bad Vacation</em> on Jan. 15. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge musician releases first album

Cam Blake’s first album, Bad Vacation, released Jan. 15

Members of the Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club team up to update the “frolf” course at Thornhill Park. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club helps upgrade local course

Thornhill Park frisbee links usage has skyrocketed since pandemic

Cody Malawsky at the box lacrosse provincials in 2019. As the highly skilled player adds size he will dominate junior, predicts longtime coach Daren Fridge. (Tim McCormick/Special to The News)
Ridge Meadows Hospice Society volunteer Jill Constable. (Ridge Meadows Hospice Society/Special to The News)
Ridge Meadows Hospice celebrating 25 years

Celebratory White Dove Dinner raising money for support and grief programs

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Most Read