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Raptors beat Lakers, LeBron struggling with limited minutes
TORONTO (AP) LeBron James is finding it hard to stay chill about his season-ending cool down. Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points, Norman Powell had 20 and the Toronto Raptors beat James and the Los Angeles Lakers(cheap LA Lakers championship rings) 111-98 on Thursday night. James scored 29 points and Alex Caruso had a career-high 16 for Los Angeles. The struggling Lakers lost for the sixth time in seven games, further denting their fading playoff hopes. Earlier this month, after consulting with James' personal trainer, the Lakers said James would play limited minutes the rest of the season, and might sit out one of any back-to-back games.
''It's challenging for me mentally, because I'm so accustomed to being out on the floor, especially when I'm healthy,'' James said. ''This is the direction they wanted to go the remainder of the season, given the lack of success we've had with our ball club.'' James played 32 minutes Thursday and has not played more than 33 in any of the past four games. His status for Friday's game at Detroit is not known. ''With the injuries we have and with LeBron(custom nba championship rings) watching his minutes, we've got to get creative with some of our lineups and make sure we have groups out there that give us a chance to win still,'' Lakers coach Luke Walton said. ''Ultimately, we're trying to get a win each and every time out.''
Pascal Siakam scored 16 points and Marc Gasol added 15 to help Toronto win its ninth consecutive meeting with the Lakers, extending a franchise record. The Raptors have not lost to the Lakers since Nov. 30, 2014. They also set a franchise record with their 20th victory of the season against a Western Conference opponent. Rajon Rondo scored 13 points but the Lakers failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 15 and 17, when they beat Chicago and won at Oklahoma City. Los Angeles overturned a 20-point deficit to win at Chicago on Tuesday night, snapping a five-game losing streak. The Lakers kept it close through three quarters against Toronto, the Atlantic Division leader, but couldn't hang on in the fourth as the Raptors started the quarter with a 13-4 spurt.
The Lakers made 7 of 31 attempts from 3-point range.
''We gave ourselves a chance to stay around and stay in the game(â ªcheap championship rings),'' Walton said, ''but to win against a good team on the road, for the most part you're going to have to knock down more than that.'' Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma shot 3 for 11 and scored seven points. He missed all three of his attempts from long range.''It just wasn't my night,'' Kuzma said. ''You can't be perfect all 82. I've got to be better, for sure.'' Kuzma got an earful from his coach after he failed to defend a 3 by Toronto's Danny Green in the third quarter.
Toronto guard Malcolm Miller, who played 24 minutes in a G-League game earlier Thursday, made two 3-pointers in the fourth. The Raptors were without guard Kyle Lowry, who sat because of a sore left ankle, and forward Serge Ibaka, who began serving a three-game suspension for throwing a punch at Cleveland's Marquese Chriss on Monday night. The Raptors were up 65-54 at halftime and took a 90-84 lead into the fourth.