So the challenge tonight for the Toronto Raptors was a large one. They were up against the best team in the NBA lead by the defending M.V.P. Kobe Bryant has had a welcome documented history of success against the Raptors. Every time he plays this team for the rest of his career people will reference the 81 points he scored against this team. But that was an entirely different Raptor squad. Chris Bosh is a lot better now than he was then. Chris would need to show that as he would be playing once again with out J.O. He was out again for the 3rd straight game. The help for Bosh has come from unlikely source in Joey Graham over the last two games. Jason Kapono who played at UCLA and is a L.A guy will also look to build off his 16 point performance in the last game. But let's be honest the Lakers have scary depth and for evidence of that you have a talent player like Lamar Odom coming off the bench. Nothing is impossible but the Raptors would need an amazing performance just to have a chance to get a win.
The Lakers are 13-1 which is truly impressive. That is being done with Kobe scoring less and playing less minutes. Chris Bosh can only imagine what less minutes feels like. He has been playing heavy minutes and using that floor time to put up some impressive performances. No doubt mission number one for Phil Jackson's Lakers will be to stop CB4. Jackson respects Bosh as much as anyone. He in fact was fined a few years back for saying he would love to have him in Laker gold and purple. So with an A-list crowd in the building it was time to play some basketball.
Kobe Bryant could make some history tonight. If he got 38 points he would become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 22,000 points in his career. The Raptors were in the black alternates in this one and they would win the tip but ended up losing possession Andrew Bynum would score for the Lakers. Jose Calderon would respond with a drive and score on the other end. We were off and running in L.A. Chris Bosh wanted to rip down the net at Staples and he tried to go in and dunk. He would be fouled and only get 1-2 from the line, 4-3 Lakers early. Kobe would get his first two point of the night from the line and Lakers were still in front by 3 early on.
Andrea Bargnani had his first two of the night. That would be answer by Pau Gasol. Andrea would then get a 3 pointer on the other end. Raptors still trailed 13-10. Raptors showed some hustle as Bynum would miss, Kobe had the rebound stole away by Jamario Moon. It would lead to a chance from line for Andrea Bargnani. This game was being played at a high tempo. Which would seem to favour the Lakers. But Raptors were hanging in the game early. Anthony Parker would cut the 6 point lead down to three points with a 3-ball. He would unfortunately head to the bench not long after picking up his second foul. But the Raptors would score in transition as Andrea Bargnani would score on a dunk as the trailer on the play. Raptors were down just 19-18 now. Jason Kapono would but the Raptors in front with their first lead of the night at 20-19. Pau Gasol would make that lead short lived. But Jamario Moon answered with a 3-ball. Gasol had another 2 points and it was all even at 23 with just under 5 minute to play in the quarter.
A Derek Fisher 3-ball put the Lakers back in front. Bosh was off to a slow start as he was 1-4 shooting to start this game. But Andrea Bargnani had picked up the slack looking good early. He had 8 points on 3-4 shooting for the Raps. Jose Calderon looked more healthy than he has in the this last stretch since his hamstring injury. He drove and scored a basket looking more quicker and effective. But the Lakers would respond as Kobe Bryant had a long mid-range jumper. Pau Gasol would then score in transition. Bosh had a jam to try and shake off his slow start. He went right at Pau Gasol just like he did in China when it was U.S.A vs Spain. Jason Kapono would make a running jumper. Pau Gasol had 12 for the Lakers but Raptors were still in it down 32-29 after 1 quarter.
So far so good if you are the Raptors. Still in the game and able to find some scoring from a number of sources shooting 48% for the quarter. Both teams would miss as Bynum was unsuccessful on one end and Bosh on the other. Paris Hilton's favourite Lakers Sasha Vujacic had an easy bucket down low in the paint. Chris Bosh would head to the bench for a break, Jose Calderon was already there as well. Could the reserves lead by Roko Ukic at the point stay in the game. Well Joey Graham was doing what he had been of late in driving to the basket. He would be rewarded with a trip to the line. He would get 1-2 and Raptors were down 36-33. Andrea Bargnani not a reserve but on the floor would get a tap back to score another 2 for him on the night. When these two teams met in pre-season the Laker reserves crushed the Raptor reserves and it was the key to victory on that night. Perhaps the Raptors remember that as to this point they were holding their own. Pre-Season can mean a little something?
Jordan Farmar had a big game in that pre-season tilt and he was on the floor and had a score. Roko Ukic would respond with a rare score for him. Kris Humphries forced a shot that would get rejected he would hustle back and commit the foul on the laker break that resulted. Laker made both from the line and had a 42-37 lead. Chris Bosh was back in but Jordan Farmar hit a 3-ball to extend the lead to 8 points and that was cause for Sam Mitchell to call a time out.
A Kapono miss and it would go out of bounds. The Lakers would take that next possession and make the lead climb to 10 points. Another failed trip and Lakers again convert and were up by a dozen 49-37. Soccer star David Bekham was among the famous on lookers that were watching the hometown Lakers start to pull away. On of the reason for that beyond the Raptors struggles on the offense, was the Lakers getting on the offensive glass with 7 rebounds giving them second chances to score. Lakers lead 51-38 as Chris Bosh would look to change his teams fate getting to the line via a Bynum foul. He made both but Luke Walton had an answer with a pass to Kobe Bryant leading to a score for Lakers on the other end of the floor. Still Bosh was not going to give it up as he would hit a jump shot to make the score 53-44 Lakers.
Still 3 minutes left in the half. Kobe Bryant was having a good start and he made another basket and had 15 points of the 38 points it would take to put him in the history books. But Jamario Moon would find his way to the line and make a pair. Andrea Bargnani making the play on defense with the block. Bosh would find an open Anthony Parker would would make a 3 pointer. Kobe Bryant would respond with the next 4 points for the Lakers. Excuse me let's make that 6 straight points. The Raptors had climbed back to within 4 points and thanks to Kobe that lead was now back to 10 points at 61-51. A Bryant miss but another one off those key offensive rebounds gathered in by Lamar Odom. It would give Derek Fisher a chance to make the lead a dozen at the half but he could not deliver. Still like the good teams do the Lakers closed out the quarter strong and had a 61-51 lead to take to halftime as a result.
It would be key for Raptors to start the second half strong if they had any ideas of pulling off an amazing upset. Lakers were being lead by Gasol and Bryant who had combined for 37 in the first half ( Bryant 21 Gasol 16 ). Bryant would need 17 points in this half to make that bit of history I mentioned off the top. I think my money is on Kobe getting it done based on the first half. Bosh would need to pick it up for his side as he had just 9 point in the first half on him. Andrea Barganani lead the Raptors with 10. More impressive for Bargnani was he had 7 rebounds to go along with that. But the Lakers were killing Toronto on the glass 27-16 with 10 of those on the offensive end.
The second half scoring would start with Andrew Bynum going 1-2 from the line. After Raptors failed to score he would get 2 more points. A Raptor turnover and Lakers made the Raptors pay and they had a 5-0 start to the half and the largest lead of the night at 15 points. That was not the start that Sam Mitchell was looking for from his team. A time out to try to figure out what went wrong in the opening moments of the second half for Toronto.
Chris Bosh would miss on a drive to the basket out of the time out. But a rare empty Laker trip on the offensive end would be taken advantage of by Jamario Moon with a 3 pointer. Another chance to cut into the lead and Chris Bosh had made a 3 pointer. The Lakers answered with a 3-ball for them. But Anthony Parker had the third straight 3 pointer for the Raptors. Despite all of this the Lakers still lead 69-60. A jump ball between point guards would be won by Derek Fisher who had got Jose Calderon upset. But Lakers failed to turn it into points and Anthony Parker would get the 2 pointer this time for the Raptors. Kobe Bryant had seen enough and would make a basket for the Lakers. The Jose Calderon and Fisher war of words continued leading to both getting a technical foul. Calderon looked to get it going for himself he would miss on a 2-ball but he would later make a 3-pointer. The Raptors were back to within 8 points. The Lakers had build the lead back up to 11 prior to the Calderon triple.
Andrew Bynum would get it deep in the paint and after his first attempt was blocked he got it back and jammed it home. Jamario Moon made a sweet pass as it looked like he was going to take a 3 pointer. But he would instead find an open Anthony Parker for the easy lay-up. Later Moon would take a 3-ball as he was wide open and missed badly. But the Lakers would get the rebound and turn it over looking for the long pass to cash in the miss on the other end. Lamar Odom had check in and he had a basket and the Lakers were back on track. The would get another score on a Bryant feed to Gasol. Laker now lead 82-69. The Raptors would turn it over and the Lakers would score again and the Raptors were back to being down 15.
Chris Bosh was struggling as well going only 4-12 from the field on the night. Jason Kapono would get a 3-ball and Lakers would respond with a 2 pointer. But just like earlier the Raptors had Anthony Parker hit a 3 pointer. Raptors were on another run. Jose Calderon would get it to Anthony Parker off a Laker turnover. Parker was slow to get up before he would head to the line. Give Raptors some credit they were not willing to just roll over and die for the Lakers. A last second Jason Kapono shot would bounce around the rim but just not fall. The score was 90-81 and despite a huge effort from the Raptors they in the end could only cut 1 point off the Lakers 10 point halftime lead. Jose Calderon already had a double double with 12 points and 12 assists. Andrea Bargnani also had a double double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. But the Lakers had done a good job at slowing down Chris Bosh and that was a big key. Bosh had 12 points on 12 shot attempts not a good ratio.
The Raptors were having a great night from behind the 3 point line. They were 10-19 from the field and that had kept them in it some what. But you had the feeling the Lakers were just the better team and could respond when needed to get this win. Bosh's tough night would continue in the 4th quarter as he missed a long jumper to start the 4th quarter for him. Anthony Parker had got to the line he had a rare free throw miss but was leading the Raptor with 19 points at this point. Roko Ukic would drive and score with a unique looking lay up. Raptors had cut the lead down to just 6 points. Sasha would drive and score for the Lakers to get the first points of the quarter for them. Sasha then hooked up Trevor Ariza with a bullet pass for a lay-up. Andre Bynum had a monster jam and the Lakers flex their muscles and go back up by a dozen.
Keep in mind the Lakers were doing this with both Gasol and Bryant watching on and resting. Bynum was at the line now and he pushed the Lakers over 100 with over 7 and half minutes to play. The Lakers were all the way back to a 15 point lead now on an Ariza dunk. The score was 103-88 and the Lakers may not need to have Bryant or Gasol return. Kobe would have to pass on making history but he would gladly trade that for another win for the Lakers. The record of Wilt Chamberlin will likely remain as Kobe showed no signs of returning.
The wind seemed to be out of the Raptors sails as they had really tried hard but just were not good enough. The Lakers had now their largest lead of 19 points. Both teams seemed content to let the reserves play this basketball game to it's finish. The Raptors would be looking for a better fate versus Denver who since bringing in Chancey Billups for a second tour of duty with the Nuggets had looked great. The Nuggets were winners over Rockets earlier 104-94. But they would do it without Carmelo Anthony who left the game with a sore elbow. Perhaps the Raptors could catch a break and avoid Melo. But it would still be a tough task. The Lakers meanwhile were cruising a long with a 110-90 lead. The Raptors had just 3 made field goals in over 10 minutes of action in the 4th quarter. Jack Nicholson was convinced enough to beat the traffic and leave early. But for the Raptors despite maybe wanting to follow him could not. Roko Ukic would get his first NBA 3-ball but it was not memorable as the Lakers win 112-96 in convincing fashion.
The Raptors move on to Denver as mentioned on Tuesday. To see the ugly details of this one the boxscore is below for the brave folks out there that choose to click on it.