LeBron James lavished praised on the Toronto Raptors after the defending champions defeated his Los Angeles Lakers 107-92 on Saturday.
The Lakers, who are leading the way in the Western Conference, lost an 11th straight game in their rivalry with the Raptors as point guard Kyle Lowry scored 33 points and had a career-high 14 rebounds.
Toronto have not lost to the Lakers since November 2014 and, despite losing 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers after their historic 2018-19 campaign, the 47-18 Raptors produced a performance that suggested they will be a serious threat in the postseason once more.
"That's a great team - exceptionally well coached, [with] championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ball club," James told reporters.
"Even before that they've got playoff-tested guys. Guys who played not just here in the NBA in big games but FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life it seems like.
"They're just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi has gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.
"They won a championship for a reason. It wasn't just solely because of Kawhi, and obviously you're seeing that.
"They've got the two-headed monster in Fred [VanVleet] and Kyle that set the tone and their wings are extremely good in Pascal [Siakam] and OG [Anunoby].
"They've got experience in the front court, at the center position in Marc and Serge [Ibaka] and then they've got a bunch of complementary guys. They've been the team that they've been all year."
The Lakers shot a season-low 35.4 per cent from the field and went 10-of-40 with their three-point attempts.
"I think for most of the game they double-teamed Anthony [Davis] and LeBron in the post and kind of left a lot of guys open to make some shots," said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
"We just didn't hit shots tonight. We got what we wanted, great shots, open shots. It was tough for us to hit them."