Apologies for the lateness of this wrap-up, but wordpress decided to throw up this morning while I was putting the finishing touches on my post-game, and poof…it was all gone. Needless to say, it’s brutal writing it a second time around, so please bear with me…
The Raptors hung in and absolutely stole the rug from under the Lakers with a thrilling 106-105 win at home. The Raptors play is much improved, but what you might not realize is how well they are doing against the West: 8-7 including wins against the Hornets, Rockets, Spurs, Mavs and the Lakers. Overall, the Raptors have beat 8 of the top 16 teams in the league (and still have to play a couple of them). Not too shabby.
Lets not get ahead of ourselves, but I liked what I saw during the game that I am going to put this out there: the Raptors are a good team. They aren’t a great team, but rather a team that will win about 45 games (like many of us expected), win some big games (like they have been doing) and lose some ones they should have no business losing (which they have done). Beating the Magic, Spurs, Mavericks and Lakers in the same 10 game stretch solidifies that they have turned the corner from the early season funk they were in, and should be taken seriously. So back to the game…
The 1st quarter saw the Lakers absolutely own the paint. 20 of their 24 points came in the lane with Gasol and Bynum contributing 12 (10 and 2 respectively) to the cause. Gasol in particular seemed to get and hit whatever shot he wanted. Bosh and Bargnani couldn’t stop them, but they answered with 8pts combined (8 for Bosh) to pace the Raptors. DeRozan must have been feeling the jitters of his family/friends watching him play his home-town Lakers and was atrocious offensively. Bricking shots, airballs, it was embarrassing for me because I had just got finished telling a room full of folks on ESPN that DeRozan is really coming along this season (link and scroll down to the Daily Dime Live Recap). What DeRozan did do was provide a lot of hustle/toughness in chasing Kobe around the court, which is no easy task. I have to say that his overall effort was pretty good for the game.
The Raptors got down 7 points with about 1:25 left in the game when the recurring theme for the game sprang up: never lie down. With the score 20-13, the Raptors went on an 8-4 run to end the first, spurred by Hedo and Calderon attacking the paint, which led to free throws, an open look for a three by Belinelli and Amir drawing a foul in the paint. 2 point Laker lead.
More of the same in the 2nd: Kobe dictating the tempo of the game and creating for everyone and Gasol/Bynum pummeling us in the paint to the tune of a combined 31pts in the 1st half. The Lakers built another 7 point lead, and thought it fit to let up just a bit. True to earlier form, the Raptors took advantage, again, and went on a 14-8 run over the last 3:31 of the 2nd to finish the half down 56-54. What we saw was more impressive: Bosh getting doubled in the paint kicks out to an open Jack for a 3; Hedo creating off the dribble; Bargnani being an aggressive beast.
We saw the same story unfold in the 4th: the Lakers push the lead to 8 courtesy of Fisher sticking a couple daggers, and again, the Raptors mount a comeback and finish the last 3:47 of the quarter on a 13-7 run to keep within 2 points heading into the 4th.
The 4th quarter is where things get interesting. I was waiting for that surge that would put the Lakers ahead for good, but the Raptors simply didn’t allow it. If you didn’t know, it was the Raptors DEFENSE that won them this game. Their tight man defense and crisp rotations forced bad shots/turnovers, then they capitalized on the other end with big shot making:
- Jack forces Farmar to turn the ball over, Bargnani hits a jumper on the other end – 86-88
- Bosh/Bargnani collapse on Gasol and force him to miss a shot at the rim, Bargnani hits a pull-up jumper in the paint on the next play 88-88
- Calderon forces Walton to turn the ball over, Bargnani hits a trey from 25 – 93-90
After Belinelli hit another ridiculous fadeaway three to put the Raptors up 98-95, Kobe, who was quietly having a monster game (I say quiet because it didn’t really feel like he was playing next level, even though he was) took over and put the Lakers up 105-101 by finding Bynum in the paint and hitting clutch jumpers.
This is where things get interesting, Hedo finds Bargnani for a deuce – plus 1, Raptors down 105-104. The Raptors defense, once again, steps up, this time Antoine Wright on Kobe off the inbounds. He stays with him, doesn’t foul, but doesn’t give him enough room to really get a good look…Kobe rims out behind the arc and Bosh boxes out Gasol to get the defensive rebound.
Turkoglu gets the call on the next play, and this is where I eat crow. I’m man enough to say that I didn’t want the ball going to him because I couldn’t stomach watching him shoot a long jumper and miss like he’s been doing during clutch situations earlier in the season. However, instead of coming off the high screen and popping a shot, he turned the corner and took it HARD to the rim and got the call. With ice in his veins, he sticks both from the line giving the Raptors a 106-105 lead with 1.2 left in the game. Kobe rimmed out a desperation three as the game clock expired, and that was that.
A full team effort, with the defense anchoring the win. While the Lakers rebounded the hell out of the ball, giving them 16 more shot attempts, the Raptors shot the ball very well with a free throw rate of 31.7% (they got to the line on 31.7% of their possessions) and hit 81% of them, capped off with Hedo winning it from the line. Biggest win of the year.