Toronto Sun

Down one with 4.2 seconds remaining after Kobe Bryant hit a fadeaway 17-footer with James Johnson in his face, Rasual Butler came off the bench to inbound the ball from in front of the Lakers bench and even asked referee Scott Foster to count out the five seconds aloud. If a team can’t inbound the ball in five seconds they lose possession.

“I heard four, I turned to call a timeout and he felt like it was five seconds,” Butler said.

Even when Foster turned to the scorer’s table Butler thought he was getting the timeout but instead Foster held up five fingers which meant a turnover.

Of course with these things you’re never going to get 100% consensus and the turnover on the inbounds was no exception.

“I wasn’t surprised, it was five,” Bryant said afterwards. “I didn’t go to college but I can count.”

Head coach Dwane Casey can count too and he was calling for a timeout from the bench at the same time Butler was trying to get one from Foster but that too went unnoticed by the officials.

Casey wisely chose to keep his thoughts on the matter to himself. Say too much and David Stern will be quick to slap you with a fine.

“I like my money,” he said. “What little bit I make, I like it so I won’t comment on it. We’ll send it to the league and let them review it. It’s a tough call. We thought we called a timeout. Mr. Foster saw it different. That’s his prerogative.”

Toronto Sun

Though Bryant led his Los Angeles Lakers to victory with some clutch plays, Calderon scored a career-high 30 points (on 13-for-18 shooting) in a brilliant effort.

The outburst was not a shock to two big Calderon fans, who happen to play for the Lakers.

“I know he can do that. You’re impressed when you don’t expect a player to have games like that,” Bryant said.

“I fully expect that from him. He’s a great player, he’s always been one of my favourite point guards. (It) wasn’t surprising at all.”

Fellow Spanish star Pau Gasol has been playing with and against Calderon since they were youngsters and said the Raptor is more than merely a pass-first specialist.

“What Jose does well is he recognizes the defence and he reads really well the game, how it’s played,” Gasol said. “There’s games where he is going to take more shots because they are there. If he’s making them, he’ll continue to shoot things if they’re available. He’s not going to force things for you so that’s why he’s always been an extremely solid player, always good at sharing the ball and getting his teammates going, but if (they) don’t stop him and don’t get in front of him, he’s got a great shot too.”

With Toronto limited offensively by the absences of Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless, head coach Dwane Casey would love to see Calderon look to score more.

“I thought he was being really aggressive coming off the screens and knocking down the shots and that is what we need for him to do,” Casey said.

Toronto Star

March Madness is just over a month away — there are hopes for a couple of Canadian kids to work their way somewhere into the draft.

Armed with their own pick in the second round, where they might have a shot at some homegrown kid, and likely with a top seven or eight pick in lottery — top three or four if they get lucky — there will be various options available to the Raptors.

Here’s a look at the top three Canadian possibilities, a couple that might factor in sometime in the future and the consensus top five picks today, with the proviso that draft stock climbs and falls a lot between now and late June:

KRIS JOSEPH, SYRACUSE

The 6-foot-9 Montreal native is the leading scorer on one of the top teams in the U.S. and while he’s had a so-so year — a bit of a shooting slump of late was worrisome — he just hit six three-pointers in a win over Georgetown.

Right now it’s unsure whether he can sneak into the first round of what’s seen as a tremendously deep draft but scouts are convinced he should be a second-round pick at worst.

ANDREW NICHOLSON, ST. BONAVENTURE

His stock seems to be a dropping a bit, the talent evaluators say, because he’s not having the greatest of senior seasons after a breakout junior year. Still, at 6-9 he’s a versatile scorer — at least in college where he can work in the post — and those who’ve seen him play and spoken to him suggest he’s bright and eminently coachable.

He’s likely a second-round pick and a long-term project who might see his stock drop because of the level of opposition the Bonnies see.

Toronto Star

That possession was the only time Butler was on the court.

“He’s our best inbounds passer,” said Casey. “What teams normally do is put their longest guy on the ball. That’s why we put Rasual up there. He’s our best inbounds passer, he’s our best lob passer, he sees the situation.”

While that was a crucial play — as was Bryant’s brilliant game-winner — the Raptors were left to lament another horrid start that left them in a huge hole. They sleepwalked through the first quarter and were down 34-19 — later trailed by 18 — and the comeback, while stirring and thrilling and somewhat unexpected, was only necessary because of another sluggish start.

“I was proud the way we dug ourselves out, but not happy with the way we dug the hole. Does that make sense?” Casey wondered.

“We can always nit-pick and go down the road, the timeout call, the two shots by Kobe (a late three-pointer over Linas Kleiza that was almost as impressive as the game-winner over James Johnson). We can look at those, but it began early.”

The loss wasted a career-best 30 points from Jose Calderon, who was 13-for-18 from the field against atrocious Lakers high screen-roll defence. Kleiza had another solid game with 15 points off the bench, Leandro Barbosa had 12. but DeRozan struggled mightily — 2-for-12 from the floor and just eight points.

“He was being really aggressive coming off the screens and knocking down the shots and that’s what we need him to do,” Casey said of Calderon, who also had six assists. “Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not but when he has the opportunity and it presents itself, we want him to be aggressive and be offensive-minded.”

But those late-game failings, the slow start and Bryant’s brilliance were too much.

“As long as we learn from it; a fool doesn’t learn from his mistakes,” said Casey. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes starting the game.”

Globe and Mail

The game followed a similar pattern for the temperamental Raptors, who began the game with their usual offensive lethargy – trailing by as many as 18 points in the opening quarter – before catching fire.

But it will be the fourth quarter that everybody will recall about this contest that began with the Lakers’ once-comfortable lead having dwindled down to 73-67 over the suddenly inspired Raptors.

Three times in the quarter the Raptors trimmed the Lakers lead to one point before guard Jose Calderon, who led Toronto with a career high 30 points and six assists, drained a three-pointer that deadlocked the score a 84-84 with just over three minutes left.

Ed Davis than made a big dunk followed by a tricky running jumper by Linas Kleiza and the Raptors suddenly found themselves leading by four points for the first time with their delirious fans screaming for more.

The clock ticked under a minute and Bryant began readying himself for heroics, beginning with a three-point shot over Kleiza that trimmed the Toronto lead to one.

Bryant would finish with 27 points.

National Post

After all of that, on the final inbound, the Raptors could not get it to their preferred target. Forward DeMar DeRozan had to take a contested three-pointer.

Casey called DeRozan “like our last option.”

If the ending was bad, the start was worse, with the Lakers outscoring Toronto 34-19 in the first quarter.

“A fool doesn’t learn from his mistakes,” Casey said of his team’s rocky starts, a season theme. “We’ve got to learn from it.”

Still, the weekend’s work has to please Casey. Before Friday, the Raptors had won two games — against doormats from New Jersey and Washington — without the injured Andrea Bargnani. On Friday, they beat the Boston Celtics, the Raptors’ eternal bully, in wire-to-wire fashion.

Two days later, they forced the Lakers to summon some magic from their aging star to escape with a win.

“It shows once we put up a fight,” DeRozan said, “we can play with anybody.

“I wish it hadn’t ended like that, though.”

National Post

Andrea Bargnani’s rehab is now taking place under water.

Bargnani has been rehabilitating in a swimming pool. The Raptors’ leading scorer has missed 16 games this season, including the last 10, because of a strained left calf.

“His new nickname is Flipper,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said on Sunday before his team played host to the Los Angeles Lakers. “He did a lot of pool work trying to get his calf going. He’s working hard on it every day. I think we’re going to try to step it up in the next week or so to get more of a weight-bearing load on it. But there’s still no time table as far as what day he’s getting back or if he’s going to come back before all-star game.

“It’s more running in the pool. Alex [McKechnie, Raptors director of sports science] has him doing all of these exercises with different types of weights. I went over and watched him the other morning, which is why I started calling him Flipper.”

Los Angeles Times

The Lakers lost an 18-point lead Sunday but survived the Raptors, 94-92, at Air Canada Centre.
It looked as if another point guard would shred the Lakers until Kobe Bryant drilled a 17-foot fadeaway from the right side with 4.2 seconds left to play, giving the Lakers the lead for good at 93-92.
A couple of minutes earlier, Bryant had walked away from the huddle during a timeout and sat by himself near midcourt on the padded part of the scorer’s table.
It was a strange sight. The Lakers trailed by four at the time, having lost what was once a 29-11 lead in a big way because of Raptors guard Jose Calderon, who finished with a career-high 30 points and six assists.
Bryant would later say he was relaxing, just "cooling." All the meditative processes in the world couldn’t have calmed the Raptors after Bryant’s shot.
Rasual Butler entered the game for the first time after a Toronto timeout and held the ball for more than five seconds as he tried to find a teammate. None was open. Violation.
Raptors Coach Dwane Casey said he tried to call a timeout when it became apparent Butler was in trouble. The Raptors will submit the call to the league office for review.
"I didn’t go to college, but I know how to count," Bryant said. "That’s five seconds. Good defense on our part."
The chances of a favorable appeal by Toronto were almost nonexistent, mainly because the Raptors had a chance to win it after Bryant made only one of two free throws at the other end.
The Raptors successfully inbounded the ball from the same spot with 3.7 seconds left, but DeMar DeRozan’s three-point attempt didn’t draw iron as time expired.

Pro Basketball Talk

The once dominant, once invincible Los Angeles Lakers needed Kobe Bryant to his 9th shot out of 23 attempts in seconds remaining after gunning his team into losing the lead late Sunday in order to stave off a win from one of the worst teams in the league without their best player in Andrea Bargnani to make sure they finished 3-3 on their road trip.

Bryant was 9-23 and missed six straight shots in the 4th quarter, but did get excellent space on the game winner because Toronto for some reason did not think to hedge to the baseline where Bryant is absolutely deadly. Bryant also had 4 turnovers and missed a free throw late to give the Raptors a chance, which of course they blew by giving it to DeMar DeRozan instead of the en fuego Jose Calderon, because Bryant was blanketing him exceptionally well.

So to recap, the Lakers almost lost to one of the worst teams in the league because Kobe Bryant did not play well, but wound up winning because Kobe Bryant wound up playing well. Yup, everything’s fine in L.A..

Note: Who wants to talk about the five-seconds call?

Blazers Edge

Foster was the referee who whistled Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge for a late-game goaltending call on a shot by Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant that helped push OKC to an overtime win at the Rose Garden on Monday. The NBA later admitted Foster got the call wrong.

Orange County Register

One game after allowing a career-high 38 points to upstart New York point guard Jeremy Lin, the Lakers yielded veteran Toronto point guard Jose Calderon a career-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting.

Metta World Peace had a strong finish and volunteered in the final minutes to take over guarding Calderon down the stretch from Steve Blake, who was playing instead of Derek Fisher.

Brown declined, but the coach relented when Bryant stated shortly thereafter that he was going to do it. After Bryant’s go-ahead 17-footer with 4.2 seconds left, he guarded Calderon for the ensuing key play: Toronto’s Rasual Butler failed to in-bound the ball within five seconds, resulting in a turnover.

Laker Nation

Laker fans aren’t too happy watching opposing points guards tear apart the Lakers for career highs, especially if those point guards are ones the Lakers could have made moves for in the aftermath of the Chris Paul trade debacle.

That’s where Jose Calderon and his career-high 30 points came in on Sunday.

Calderon was everything the Lakers would hope for in a point guard: a high-efficiency scorer, a capable distributor, and, even more interestingly, a backcourt player who has history playing with Pau Gasol from their playing time in Spain. When Calderon drained a mid-range jumper with 16 seconds remaining to put the Raptors in the lead, he punctuated his audition for the Lakers with a bang that would have stung for Lakers fans if not for Bryant’s almost-predictable heroics.

Globe and Mail

The more you see of Dwane Casey the more there is to like about the Toronto Raptors head coach.

There’s nothing he can do about the exaggerated sense of fairness shown established opponents by NBA officials, but he’s shown he can pull the strings with an under-manned team the way Jay Triano never could with a fully constituted roster.

Sunday, Casey made strategic use of Jamaal Magloire late in the first half to find a post-up checkmate to Andrew Bynum and stem a tide that was rolling in the Los Angeles Lakers’ favour.

Friday, he busted the Boston Celtics’ zone with timely re-entry of Linas Kleiza and Jose Calderon into the game in the fourth quarter.

He has managed Calderon’s minutes shrewdly in the absence of Jerryd Bayless, and Calderon has responded with strong back-to-back games ahead of Tuesday’s visit of the New York Knicks and flavour of the month Jeremy Lin.

Land O Lakers

The Lakers ended the first quarter shooting 70 percent from the field and 80 percent from behind the arc. Obviously, it would be unrealistic to expect such gaudy numbers for another three frames, but execution of the formula behind that quality showing shouldn’t be too much to ask. During the first frame, the Lakers attacked Toronto’s soft interior with relentless aggression, and the ball was moved around with precision. Defensively, Calderon was having his way, but he was also a one-man band. Thus, the Lakers finished the quarter up 15, which would have been even higher were it not for seven turnovers converted into seven Toronto points.
In hindsight, those gaffes were an omen of what lurked around the corner over the next three quarters.
Whether overly relaxed, overly confident, or overly just-not-a-team-capable-of-playing-four-good-quarters, the Lakers grew increasingly sloppy and discombobulated. Defensive rotations were sloppy and late. Toronto’s zone defense completely befuddled their offense. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) And the energy was often nonexistent. And to its credit, Toronto sensed a visiting squad letting off the gas, and pounced on the chance. A few luckier bounces (or Rasual Butler calling timeout in time) and they might have snuck away with a win.

The Score

3. The Raptors would have won today if DeMar DeRozan had played halfway-decent, but he finished with a putrid eight points on 2-for-13 shooting from the field. It’s not like he was settling for ill-advised jumpshots, since only five of his shots were taken outside the paint. Bizarrely, he set his own career-high with seven assists, topping his previous high of five dimes.

4. Is Amir Johnson still having personal problems? He didn’t take a single field goal attempt in 16 minutes and had just two rebounds and a steal today. A lot of people were critical of Bryan Colangelo for signing him to a five-year, $30 million contract in the 2010 off-season, but I felt like he had done a lot to silence those critics with his play last season. Many of you probably know that I’ve been a big supporter of Amir throughout his career, but I can’t defend the way he’s played this season.

5. I’ve ripped Jamaal Magloire a lot this season but he’s one of the main reasons the Raptors were even in this game after they fell behind by 15 points after a quarter. He had four points, seven rebounds, and he was plus-12 in just 15 minutes today. After entering the game three minutes into the second quarter, he did a great job boxing out Andrew Bynum and setting screens for his teammates. If he can provide that kind of contribution a lot more often, he might have a future in this league after this season.

Basketball Things

The last time we saw the Toronto Raptors running a last second out of bounds play, they screened for inbounder Jose Calderon to get him an open three.  With some help from Nick Young, their plan nearly succeeded.  So with 3.7 seconds remaining, let’s see what head coach Dwayne Casey diagrams and how the Lakers handle it.

The video below should serve as a reminder as to what the Raptors did against the Wizards.  Leandro Barbosa screened for the inbounder, Jose Calderon, and Trevor Booker and Nick Young had a miscommunication, leaving Jose Calderon open from three.  John Wall bailed out his teammates by contesting the shot, forcing a miss.

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