The Toronto Raptors dropped a matinee affair with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon in a game that had everything: a big comeback, last minute buckets and even a controversial call in the dying seconds. The HQ has your recap of all the drama from yesterday's game at the ACC.
By the time the dust had settled on the Toronto Raptors' heartbreaking 94-92 loss to the Lakers Sunday afternoon, we had bared witness to an absolute rollercoaster of a basketball game. It was one that saw the Raptors go from down 18 points early, to actually looking like they might pull out a victory, and then back to reality thanks to some vintage plays by one Kobe Bean Bryant and a rather suspect 5 second violation doled out by the men in stripes.
This contest left those watching with a great deal to process, following a hectic finish to what was a closely contested ballgame for about 3 quarters.
The game itself began rather inauspiciously for the Raps who looked sluggish and played that way for the majority of the opening quarter; as a result they found themselves down 34-19 at the end of one.
In the second quarter, however the Dinos began to turn things around. Following the aforementioned disastrous first quarter, Dwane Casey opted to bring Jamaal Magloire into the game to give his team a different look inside. This move proved to be a great one as Magloire's effort on both end of the floor seemed to spark his team.
Magloire battled with Bynum inside, disrupting his shot on a number of occasions, and grabbing some tough rebounds in traffic. Magloire's energetic second quarter performance-which featured a number of rebounds and a couple of buckets-was highlighted by a sequence in which he came up with an impressive weak side block on Andrew Bynum and then followed it up with a transition layup on the other end.
Thanks to this renewed energy level the Raptors were once again back in the ballgame, closing the gap to just 8 points at the half after James Johnson grabbed a rebound off of a Bynum missed free throw and went coast to coast for the slam to emphatically close the half. The Raps comeback in the quarter was a result of tougher defense combined with some extra ball movement and better percentage looks at the basket.
The Dinos came out of halftime with the same effort and energy level they finished the half with and hung with the Lakers in that third quarter. Toronto came away with a two point edge in the quarter, which would help set up the wild fourth quarter that would take place next.
In the fourth the Raptors got a big effort out of their second unit while the Lakers rested Bryant. Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa and Ed Davis were all instrumental in the Raptors comeback, including in key spots in the fourth.
The Raptors brought the game to within 1 point about midway through the fourth quarter, but that was when Kobe reentered the game and began to take over. Bryant scored 7 straight points, and it started to look like the Lakers were going to finally pull away-but that turned out not to be the case, as Jose Calderon answered with a great assist leading Ed Davs for an easy bucket inside, and followed that up with a three-pointer that once again cut the lead back to 1 for the Raptors.
Calderon made plays like this all game long, and was a huge reason-if not the reason-why the Raptors even had a shot at taking this game at the end.
After that, the see-saw battle continued until Calderon stepped up once again for the Dinos, hitting a three-pointer to tie the game with 3 minutes left, and then nailing a long two with a minute and a half to go, to stretch the Raptor lead to 4.
That lead though, would not stand as Kobe Bryant decided it was time for him to will his team to victory. Bryant proceeded to knock down a three-pointer with Kleiza in his face and then strip Kleiza on the other end, leading to a runout and a layup for Metta World Peace. Again, the lead was 1 for the Lakers.
On the very next possession the Raptors gave the ball to the hot hand, Jose Calderon and watched him go to work. Calderon dribbled, looked for the open man, got himself into trouble and passed to Davis who reset the ball back to Jose. Jose then made his move, a change of pace dribble that gave him just enough space to nail the jumper over Steve Blake and to give the Raptors a 1 point lead again with 16 seconds remaining. This was a big shot, but by no means was the game considered to be complete as is always the case when number 24 is on the other team.
And as you can probably guess, Kobe Bryant got the ball for the Lakers and with 4.2 second left he drilled a vintage Kobe Bryant fade away in the right corner, giving his team the 1 point lead.
The game though, was not over. The Raptors had two opportunities to respond; the first came on the following possession with 4.2 seconds remaining. Rasual Butler checked in for the first time all game to be the trigger man on the ensuing inbounds play. As Butler attempted to make the correct read and properly execute the play call, he found himself unable to inbound the ball before being called for a 5 second violation. The violation though, appeared to be a quick count and it seemed as though the Raptors may have called a timeout prior to the 5 second call, yet the call remained and the Dinos turned the ball back over to the Lakers.
The Raptors again had another opportunity, down 2 points with 3.7 seconds left, but were unable to get off anything more than a desperation jumper by DeMar DeRozan that failed to reach the rim.
The story of the game will be those two plays: the game winning jumper by Bryant, and the somewhat controversial 5 second call, but those two plays notwithstanding the Raptors dug themselves a first quarter whole yet again, that they were unable to entirely recover from and it cost them the game.
Lost in all the last minute craziness is the performance by Jose Calderon. Calderon dropped a career high 30 points to go along with 6 assists and a number of clutch baskets that kept the Raptors in the game.
Calderon carried a starting lineup that struggled to make baskets all game long. DeMar DeRozan made 2 of his 13 shot attempts-though he had a career high 7 assists-and James Johnson was a measly 3 for 8 from the floor. Aaron Gray struggled to begin the game, but really came on in the second half and did a solid job defending the post and grabbing big rebounds in traffic.
The Raptors bench was also crucial to the Dinos' efforts yesterday afternoon. Linas Kleiza and Leandro combined for 27 points, while Ed Davis had 8 points and 9 rebounds and came up big in a couple of key spots in the fourth. As mentioned above, Jamaal Magloire was also big; he grabbed 7 rebounds and had 4 points and a block in just 15 minutes of play.
For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum anchored the team. Bryant finished with 27 which included all of those clutch buckets down the stretch; Pau Gasol grabbed a game high 17 rebounds and distribute a team high 6 assists to go along with his 16 points. Andrew Bynum also pitched in with 14 points and 9 rebounds.
The Raptors will have a day off tomorrow before New York rolls into town for a matchup with the Raptors on Tuesday night. The Raptors will hope to carry over the energy they displayed in the second, third and fourth quarters of yesterdays game, into Tuesday night's contest against Jeremy Lin and the all-of-a-sudden surging New York Knicks.
In the end, this loss may sting a little, but in a season like this where the team is looking for internal improvements and a change in culture without compromising their standing in the draft lottery, this outcome may ultimately be more beneficial for the Raptors than a win.