LA Lakers 121, Toronto Raptors 101

It’s no surprise that we have a long ways to go before we can think of contending with real teams, or even with real teams missing two starters while playing at home. Didn’t the Lakers suffer an exhausting 1 point defeat in Detroit and arrived in Toronto at 4 AM? They sure didn’t look like the team that might be road weary, if anything it was the Raptors that looked tired and never got back on defense and got rightfully killed in transition. So much for taking advantage of the Lakers back-to-back, pushing the ball up-court only to launch a quick jumper isn’t “attacking” basketball, that’s more like bailing a tired team out. And don’t let Chuck/Jack fool you into thinking that we did anything to extend the Lakers by any means, they’re the ones who extended us out by spreading the floor and playing the triangle and leaving many a Raptor with the deer-in-the-headlights look. And then of course, there was Kobe.

You expect Kobe to explode against our perimeter defense but you’d think that we’d keep the likes of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic in check, no? Isn’t that what Sam’s philosophy is, let Kobe get his and slow the supporting cast down. Tonight the supporting cast was depleted and we still allowed 7 threes from the guard combo who led the bench scoring and out-gunned ours 37-18 with each three being of the killer variety. Now you can point to Anthony Parker and Jose Calderon’s noncommittal man-defense but at some point the Raptors as a team have to make an adjustment to hide this weakness in their games. Maybe asking Parker and Calderon to help is a really, really bad idea because it seems like we get burned every time they do. Our defense on Kobe ranged from helping-early, helping-late and not helping at all. Needless to say when you’re a poor defensive team like the Raptors are, deploying so many different defenses against him is bound to confuse the living shit out of your players. But hey, Kobe went off, not much you can do about it. Sleep easy Carlos, you’re not the first one to get burned and you won’t be the last.

Hold off on the trades and the D-league assignment people, Andrea Bargnani is alive and well, how well? 28 points, 4 rebounds well. Bargnani is actually looking athletic of late, he’s driving to the rim at a reasonable pace, his thinking speed and movement speed are aligned, he’s making the right decisions when his man is playing him tight or giving him space and he’s playing (or trying to play) with authority. His in-traffic dunk in the first quarter was the highlight of this season, if there’s one thing to take from this game, it’s Bargnani’s performance. The thing that is most noticeable is that he doesn’t have that scared look on his face every time he catches the ball; Sam is letting him play through his mistakes which helps. But the most and I mean the most important thing about his recent success is that he isn’t taking himself out of the game by picking up early fouls. Now this might have something to do with playing against Haywood and Turiaf who aren’t exactly aggressive centers but at least it’s a sign that Bargnani isn’t dead just yet.

Chris Bosh had 22 and 15 but shot only 7-22 and stayed on the perimeter for the better part of the game. I didn’t like the first shot he took although he made it, a baseline fadeaway which I was hoping he’d miss because that might’ve motivated him to attack Turiaf who had expected trouble guarding the quicker Bosh. Bosh completely bailed out the Lakers defense and you might point to his 15 rebounds and say that he was exhausted on the defensive end, but I don’t buy that. We had a day off and he played less than 20 minutes on Friday, no excuses here. The Lakers were playing a lot of single-coverage on him and that’s exactly the situation where he needs to dominate and force early doubles which would kick-start our simplistic offense. Coming off an all-star nod, you have to bring it against the best player in the league. Disappointing night for Bosh.

It was obvious that part of our strategy was to slow down Kobe by having him play some defense. Unfortunately, Parker isn’t the type of player that can wear an opponent out. After all, running around screens to shoot jumpers tires you more out than the defender. Although he hit his first couple shots you knew it wasn’t going to last and Kobe came back each time Parker scored to get the points back and send a message to the Raptors that they’re better off conserving Parker’s energy on offense so he can actually defend Kobe. Delfino played Kobe as well as you can, no complaints there, Kobe’s an awesome player and got his points through many a different mean. A few times our last line of defense (aka PF and C’s) weren’t there when Kobe had beaten his man to find a wide open path to the rim. It looked like they weren’t even supposed to help out and had delegated on the helping to the guards. Anyway, Kobe exploded like the superstar that he is. A real superstar. Kobe summed up the game and his success:

“We only come here once a year, for some people, it’s the only chance they get to see me. Sometimes it’s the first time, so I want to make sure that I go out and put on a good performance. I was just reading the defense, the fact that they were honoring our shooters made it easy for me to get to the basket and I just kept attacking. The times that they closed off the lanes, I kicked it out to our shooters and they were able to knock them down.”

As I said before, I agree with the above quote but what I don’t understand his why we keep helping off our guards when Kobe’s driving, let Bosh/Bargnani/Moon be the first to apply the rotations, not Parker and Calderon.

A word needs to be said about our our defense, we were utterly confused by the triangle. Even when the Lakers had just set it up and passed the ball to Turiaf in the middle, you could tell that the Raptors had zero idea of where the ball might go next. I was almost like we didn’t watch any game tape or if we did, failed to grasp anything from it. The thing with the triangle is that it has many options so once the baseline cut was taken away by say Rasho or Bosh helping out, it left the weakside open and all that was needed was a quick swing pass or two to completely carve us open. The Lakers played exceedingly well and didn’t give the Raptors even a remote chance in this game. We were unprepared and not ready for what was about to hit us, maybe we were still celebrating the Washington win.

Liners:

* The Pau Gasol trade makes the Lakers the favorite to come out of the pacific over Phoenix.

* Jamario Moon’s honeymoon is officially over. He’s regressed into playing some very risky cheating-type defense and is starting to take more and more ill-advised jumpers. To Sam’s credit he’s been quick in yanking him whenever he’s up to no good.

* Jason Kapono went 4-5, all of his points coming in a second-half stretch which saw us trade baskets. It never looked like we would ever get a meaningful stop and this game was decided in the third quarter when it became apparent that at best we could trade baskets with the Lakers.

* Checking the boxscore you notice that we out-rebounded them 41-40 but I could swear on my mother that it felt like they had about 20 offensive boards.

* Kobe going after the Toronto fans in the first row doesn’t feel too good.

* Derek Fisher’s defense on Jose Calderon can’t be ignored, yeah Calderon scored 17 points but Fisher wore him out on the other end and applied enough pressure to hold Calderon to only 5 assists.

* Every time we hit a three to get some momentum, they came and hit one back. We never had any momentum in this game on which we could ride. All in all, it was awfully familiar from last year’s game in Toronto except in that one Kobe didn’t need to score 46, not that he did today.

Podcast on Monday, later.

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