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Lakers 108, Raptors 103: I'm Sorry We Had to See This

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It's a good thing the Portland Trail Blazers are visiting on Sunday, because the Lakers have clearly grown bored with pounding scrubby opponents. That became apparent tonight when they trailed the humble Toronto Raptors at halftime, at home, and then let the Raps nip at their heels all game before finally securing a 108 to 103 win. It was enough to push the Lakers' record to a perfect 6-0, tied for best in the NBA, but there was little perfection on display. The Lakers' play was sluggish and unfocused. Fortunately, the talent gap between them and the Raptors is large enough to permit a victory even when their form is lacking.

Early on, it looked as if the Lakers would once again blow the doors off an overmatched adversary with an offensive barrage. Behind three longballs by Steve Blake, they built up a 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter. That seemed to drain away their killer instinct. They might have assumed, not unreasonably, that they'd be able to do whatever they wanted against the soft Raptor D.

In any event, lethargy set in by the middle of the second quarter, and the Lakers stopped working on offense. Half-assed screens, no movement away from the ball, settling for long jumpers... they apparently wished to call it a night and hope that the Raps would just go quietly. Instead, the visitors exploited the Lakers' ennui to finish the half on a 16-5 run that put them up three at the break. The Lakers hadn't trailed at halftime since opening night.

The Lake Show was still behind a full 10 minutes into the third quarter. With 1:15 remaining in the period, Shannon Brown, who had a composed and efficient night, hit a three to put the Lakers up 80-78. The Raptors wouldn't lead again. They fought hard until the end, but down the stretch they couldn't make an outside shot when they needed it and couldn't keep the Lakers off the free-throw line. The Raps were also bedeviled by errant passing and loose handles. The 21 turnovers they committed largely undid their advantage on the boards.

And that advantage was massive. This was one of the worst rebounding performances we've seen from the Lakers in years. Their work on the defensive glass has been suspect in every game this season, but they've generally done well in recovering their own missed shots and generating second looks. Not tonight! Against Toronto they were all too happy to be hideously bad on both ends. The Raptors collected 44% of their own misses and 83% of the Lakers'. Amir Johnson personally had more offensive rebounds (nine) than the Lakers' entire team (seven). Pau Gasol didn't have a board until the third quarter. Lamar Odom, in his first bad game of the season, did not box out well or chase down loose balls. Ron Artest, who had one defensive rebound in 25 minutes, continues to be horrendous on the defensive glass. Nobody was interested in getting physical with Johnson or Reggie Evans. Those two rugged bros clawed their way to seemingly every miss.

Toronto just couldn't get the ball to drop enough. They had too many easy layups to count, but aside from Leandro Barbosa, who made three triples, they didn't have much of an outside game. DeMar DeRozan was their high-volume shooter but scored only 15 points on 19 shots (including free-throw possessions). Andrea Bargnani couldn't get into a groove and was held 10 points below his season average. For some reason, Jay Triano decided to bench Sonny Weems for all but six minutes of the game. Weems scored 23 against Utah on Wednesday and, one would think, could've provided some floor-spacing punch tonight.

You won't be shocked to hear that the Laker attack was keyed by Kobe Bryant and Gasol. Kobe didn't have the three-point stroke that we've seen this season but nonetheless had a productive night with 23 points on 17 shots, six assists, four rebounds and three steals. Pau was terrible on D and on the glass but carried a big scoring load, putting up 30 on 25 shots. The offense suffered a bit from a lack of production from the forward spots. Odom, Artest, Barnes and Walton (who made his first appearance of the season) combined for only 16 points on 24 shots. Not pleasing to the senses, good sirs.

The Laker backcourt, however, was quite productive. We've talked about Kobe, Shannon and Blake. Derek Fisher as well had a good game on the whole. He scored 11 on eight shots and did all those little acts of sabotage that can disrupt an opposing offense: taking charges, deflecting passes, knocking the ball off the opponent's knee out of bounds. Pretty solid outing for Fish, though it would've been nice if he hadn't jacked up a fully guarded jumpshot with 48 seconds left in the game, the Lakers up six and 12 seconds on the shot clock. I swear he does that just to annoy me.

Best just to put this game in our rearview mirror. The Lakers got the W even though they had no interest in going to work tonight. The close final score was purely a function of boredom. I expect a crisp, energized performance against the Blazers on Sunday. The defensive rebounding, though - that's something that has to get cleaned up. It's something that's been a problem not just tonight but in every game this season.

Enjoy what remains of your Friday, Silver Screen and Rollers. C.A. will be around tomorrow with more words and sentences for your enjoyment. Oh, and don't forget to set your clocks ahead an hour this weekend!











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