A great effort… and a little overdue luck.
The Toronto Raptors once again got off to a roaring start, but unlike recent performances, were able to convert it into a victory. A fairly convincing win at that.
Sure the Los Angeles Lakers are struggling thus far this year, but when your biggest victory this year comes against the Indiana freaking Pacers, you take it and you run real fast.
With not one, but two officially recognized boo-boo`s that the NBA has apologized to the Raptors for, Toronto finally got a call go their way. Late in the second quarter, Dwight Howard got tangled up with Alan Anderson and the referee unspeakably tagged Howard with his second tech of the game. The game was pretty tight at this point, and the former Magic pivot had been coming on strong of late. This Laker team has not been very good at defense, even with Howard in the fold. You take him out, and this team suddenly looks like an aging squad that is a step slow on everything.
Calderon, Ed Davis and Landry Fields shot a combines 26 – 39 from the field. That kind of efficiency will win you some games. The problem with all three of these players is that they are generally high-percentage scorers, but they lack the ability to create shot attempts.
Jose continues his impressive run as a starter, despite having a couple of clunkers during this last 4-game losing streak. When he`s on, there aren`t many point guards in this league that can duplicate his combination of dead-eye shooting and excellent ball distribution. It`s when he`s looking for that shot aggressively, it really makes the game easy for him. Even with Kobe Bryant checking him at times, he was able to produce.
In terms of Jose`s longstanding reputation of padding his totals with `fake` assists, however unfair that moniker was, it undeniably has not been the case since one perimeter big (to be left unnamed) has been out of the lineup. With a more traditional lineup with front court players flashing to the rim, a lot of his assists are ending up as layups or dunks. Usually it`s Davis or Amir Johson, but Landry Fields was a favorite target, as he kept cutting down the right baseline.
He`s a smart basketball player, is Fields, and as he re-discovers his shooting stroke, he`s still finding a way to contribute. The rebounding has been excellent coming from the small forward position, and he bagged another 10 boards this game.
For Ed Davis, it`s all about hitting that little 10 ft jumper. It seems to give him confidence when that shot is working. He`s got this one move where he picks up his dribble, goes left and lays it up high off the glass. He was able to do this against the legit length of Pau Gasol. He continues to grow into the starters role, and it`s such a shame it took an injury for this revelation to occur, instead of Bryan Colangelo who is paid millions of dollars to evaluate talent.
The Reaction post after the game was effusive in its praise of Alan Anderson, which seemed to rub a few people the wrong way. Sure he shot 5 – 13 and his shooting percentages are down, but he also takes a lot of threes, and he can make a nice pass. Eight assists for Anderson on Sunday afternoon. DeMar hasn`t recorded that many assists in any game in his career. Quality shooting guards can shoot long distance, and the ones who may not be decent three point shooters can at least be a second playmaker on the floor after the point guard. So Anderson is perhaps not a great guard, but he`s more of a guard then DeMar is right now. He made a couple of big plays down the stretch, one of them being a nice assist for an Amir Johnson jumper.
Defensively, the Raptors bent but didnt break. Kobe Bryant missed too may shots for them to establish any offensive consistency. Kyle Lowry defended him fairly well when on the court, and it showed a little creativity from Casey thats been missing at times this year. He missed a lot of open looks, but with Pau Gasol in the post it looked like he was being a little selfish in his approach. He doesn`t trust this team right now, but in the end the Lakers still dropped 100+ points, especially after Bryant started hitting his customary 4th quarter comeback threes.
It took Jose Calderons return in the 4th to close the game. He ended the game like he started it, and thats a concept we can all rally behind these days.