Box Score: Lakers 94 – Raptors 92
In the 1st, it looked like the Lakers were going to run away with this one, rushing out to a 7-0 lead to start the game. With a combination of solid defense and shot-making, the Lakers raced out to an early 18 point advantage, leading 29-11 after Pau Gasol put-back with 2 minutes to go in the 1st. For the Raptors, Demar DeRozan was clearly off his game, missing his first four shots, while Jose Calderon kept them afloat, hitting 5-6 shots in the quarter on a series of long jumpers. With the exception of Calderon, the Lakers managed to hold the Raptors to mostly contested shot, and gobbled up all the defensive boards from the resulting misses.
The Laker offense looked to be running smoothly, with Gasol hitting two elbow jumpers, Bynum making a few good post moves, with Murphy, Goudelock, Barnes, and even Metta World Peace knocking in three pointers. However, with 8:55 to go in the 2nd quarter, the entire game changed…
…when Jamaal Magloire entered the game.
I’ll say that again: the entire game changed when Jamaal Magloire entered the game.
Forgetting for a moment that it isn’t 2004 and Jamaal Magloire isn’t on the All-Star team, Magloire brought energy and defensive intensity to the Raptors. Over the span of the next quarter and a half, Magloire managed to hold Bynum in check, outscoring him 4-2 (WHAT?!). The Raptors picked up their defense, and began generating turnovers. These turnovers led to fast break opportunities, which the much younger and faster Raptors used to slowly cut into the Laker lead. Outscored by 7 in the 2nd quarter, the Lakers took an 8 point lead into the half after James Johnson drove coast-to-coast for a driving dunk to end the quarter.
Hope for the Lakers to come out strong in the 2nd half and re-assert themselves died when they came out and missed their first 6 shots, allowing the Raptors to cut the lead to 3 with 7:35 to go in the 3rd. A couple long jumpers by Steve Blake helped keep the Raptors at bay, with the Lakers nursing a tenuous 6 point lead going into the 4th.
Still holding a lead, the Lakers went into the 4th hoping to keep the Raptors at arms length, until…
… the Raptors went zone. Now the Raptors had been using zone intermittently throughout the game, but the Lakers had managed to break it with some halfway decent shooting from their supporting cast (Murphy, 2-4, Goudelock 3-7, Blake 2-6, MWP 3-4), and some decent high-low action from Pau and Bynum. Gasol, who started out 3-4 in the 1st, went cold (especially from the base line), finishing 6-15, while Bynum, who started out 4-5, began putting up sissy-ninny shots inside, finishing 7-13.
And then of course, there’s Kobe. When Kobe came in and saw zone, he immediately tried to go to work, isolated on the wings (I’m assuming this is his logic, since I’m pretty sure everyone knows that’s not how you break a zone). Kobe missed 5 shots in a row at one point, as the Laker lead evaporated and turned into a 4 point deficit. It looked like all hope was lost, as the Raptors had all the momentum and had just taken the lead for the first time in the game with just under 3 minutes to go, until…
The Play of the Game
…Kobe made three straight magnificent plays. First, with the Lakers down 4 with 1 minute to go, Kobe made one of his classic, cold-blooded threes to cut the deficit to just a single point. On the ensuing defensive possession, Kobe hounded Linas Kleiza, forcing a steal which led to a run-out, Kobe dishing off to Metta World Peace for a lay-up, giving the Lakers a 1 point lead. After Jose Calderon hit an tough shot over Blake to give the Raptors the lead again, the Lakers advanced the ball on a timeout.
Using a shake-and-fake maneuver reminiscent of Reggie Miller, Kobe got just enough space to launch one of his fading, twisting baseline jumpers, drilling the shot and giving the Lakers the lead. After an extremely unfortunate (and controversial) 5-second call on the ensuing inbounds by the Raptors, the Lakers held on with a Kobe free throw and some excellent on ball D from MWP.
This was a game where the support cast out side our big three came through about as much as could be expected from them. With each player contributing at least 4 points, the Lakers supporting cast contributed 37 points. Fisher’s defense was bad, but it didn’t help that Calderon was sinking shots regardless of how well they were contested.
The Lakers never should have been in a position to lose this game after being up 18 so early, but this team has shown that it has a gear that is good enough to be a contending team. Whether they actually use that gear is another story.