Come With Kobe if You Want to Live

The Lakers may have been on a three-game losing streak, but they still employ Kobe Bryant and the Toronto Raptors do not. You can draw a pretty straight line between that observation and tonight's outcome, a 109 to 107 Laker win that was discouraging and inspiring in almost equal measures. Discouraging, because Toronto was supposed to be an opponent the Lakers could easily handle, an Eastern Conference middleweight that's won barely a third of its road games. But inspiring as well, because hey: Kobe Bryant!

Tonight's selection from the Kobe Game-Winner Platinum Series took the form of a baseline fall-away over Antoine Wright with 1.9 seconds left. Yes, monsieur, that will do just fine! The shot put the Lakers up a deuce and, as the Raptors had no timeouts left, effectively sealed the win. What's that, you say? Why did the Lakers need a dramatic end-game shot to snag a home victory from the Raptors? I... *fake static sounds*... I can't hear you that well. *more fake static sounds* I think my phone's going out....

If you must know: it's because for most of the night, the Laker defense looked like the Raptor defense always looks. Which is to say, nauseating. Early on, the Lakers repeatedly failed to close on Toronto's shooters, who made 7 of 10 threes in the first half. The perimeter D improved a bit and the Raps cooled off from outside, but in the third they got to the line in droves to keep the points flowing. Jarrett Jack had a great game, going pretty much wherever he wanted until the last few minutes, when Kobe was assigned to check him. Andrea Bargnani did plenty of damage rolling to the basket. Fortunately for L.A., Chris Bosh was kept under control.

Until he wasn't. With under 10 seconds left and the Raps down three, Bosh came off a high pick-and-pop and buried the clutch longball. It was only his eighth triple of the year, but his second of the game. Those bombs notwithstanding, huge credit goes to Andrew Bynum for playing some of his smartest, most active D of the year against Bosh. Drew moved his feet well, blocked a couple shots and made CB4's life difficult tonight. Well played, young man.

Drew was also great at the offensive end. With Pau Gasol (4 of 11) continuing to struggle with his shot and the team's three-point shooters unable to make jack shit - nothing new there - Drew was needed as a dependable number two option after Kobe. He came through by going to the rim hard. 22 points on 71% True Shooting for the big man, not to mention zero turnovers. Very tasty.

Other positives tonight include the Lakers' overall offensive approach. They went inside over and over again, and were rewarded with 44 free-throw attempts. They took good care of the ball, their second straight game with a low turnover rate. Lamar Odom had a nice stretch when he put some oomph into the attack by going to the hole.

The big trouble spot remains the team's three-point shooting. Ron Artest, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar are all slumping at the same time. Over the past four games, the Lakers have made 17 of 73 (23%) attempts from behind the arc. One way or another - paging Sasha Vujacic? - those numbers have to get better. You can't win consistently in the NBA without a three-point option, as unfortunately not everyone's inside D is as squishy as Toronto's.

Their slide halted, the Lakers are now 47-18. They're two games ahead of Orlando for the league's second-best record and three ahead of Dallas in the West. Up next is Friday night in Phoenix.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

Raps

93

14

0.37

87

0.27

46

41

50

57

26

71

1.15

Lakers

93

10

0.56

82

0.19

51

20

47

56

29

74

1.17

Follow Dex on Twitter here.

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