In the second game of a back to back the Raptors came out just like Kobe Bryant's new "mamba" nickname....weak. While they kept things close for the first two quarters the Lakers hit them with the knockout punch in the third quarter and Toronto never recovered. The Lakers stretched their lead to 21 points and never looked back in fact resting starters Chris Mihm, Lamar Odom, Smush Parker and Kobe Bryant for the entire fourth quarter and the Lakers walked away with the win, a 102-91 decision.
The statistical story of this game was particularly telling as the Raptors were badly outplayed in almost every statistical category. They were badly outrebounded (48 to 33), shot only 4 of 22 from beyond the arc, had only 19 assists to the Lakers 28 and shot only 41% from the field while allowing Los Angeles to shoot a torrid 53.8%. Chris Bosh was his usual solid self and led the Raptors in points with 22, rebounds with 10 and even assists with 6. Five other Raptors also reached double figures on the night but besides Morris Peterson and Jose Calderon, none were very effective in any other areas. Lamar Odom was a handful in the post for Toronto all night and led the Lakers with 19 points on a very effective 8 for 12 shooting. Kobe Bryant only scored 15 points but had 9 assists as well.
Jose Calderon - While Calderon didn't near his triple double type numbers of the night before he was a sparkplug for Toronto all night and without him this game wouldn't have even been NEAR close. His speed to the basket created many open looks for the Raptors and he had 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to go along with his 10 points on the night. Calderon simply competes hard each and every night and while he's somewhat of a liability defensively at times due to his size, his point guard play and heads up style more then makes up for this. The other Raptors simply have to do a better job helping him out at times.
Chris Bosh - This must have been a frustrating loss for CB4. Bosh came prepared to play and did a better job on the glass tonight then he did in the previous loss vs. the Wizards. He also made some great passes and blocked 2 shots. Bosh as usual did a great job taking advantage of his quickness and drawing fouls and shot 13 foul shots hitting 10 of these. You see a different improvement in Bosh's game each night and last night it was his passing that was on full display.
The Raptor's Finishing Ability - The caveat to Bosh's passing game is two-fold: First, even though both he and Calderon made some great passes, their teammates did a poor job finishing on this night. Bricked jump shots, airballs, blown dunks, you name it. The Raptors at one point in the second quarter were poised to take over the game but simply could not finish on open shots created by Calderon's flashes to the basket. Secondly, Bosh is no exception either to this as he missed 2 open dunks near the end of the game and was only 6 of 14 from the field. His front court partner CV Smooth, while indeed smooth in making his move to the hoop, has to do a better job finishing easy shots around the rim. Colour man Jack Armstrong commented on the fact that as Villanueva gets stronger he'll do a better job of this and to a certain extent I agree. However at times his soft touch is simply that...too soft and his shots are hitting the front of the rim be it on a finger roll or a jump hook in the paint.
The Raptors's Rebounding - This wasn't the San Antonio Spurs with Duncan, Nesterovic, Mohammed, Oberto and a seemingly endless supply of big men to throw at Toronto. There was no Shaq and Robert Horry. This was the 2005 version of the Los Angeles Lakers with Aaron McKie being one of the team's top free agent acquisitions this past offseason. Yes Lamar Odom is a great rebounder for his position. But explain to me how Chris Mihm, Sasha Vujacic, Smush Parker, Luke Walton, Devean George and Devin Green all had the same amount or more rebounds then any Raptor other then Chris Bosh? That is a simply a disgrace. The one advantage Toronto should have had all night was their rebounding and interior play against a small and inexperienced Lakers squad. However the Raptors did not take advantage of this and therefore any advantage Toronto had on paper was completely negated.
The Raptor's Defence - Yes, this is the broken record of this young NBA season for the team. However while the Raptors' defence has been especially porous at times, last night's display may have been the worst yet. Maybe the young squad simply did not have a good understanding of defending Phil Jackson's triangle offense...however when players are flashing to the basket unbumped, V cuts are unguarded and ball fakes off double teams are leaving players completely wide open for dunks I don't care if you're playing pickup at the YMCA...it's just bad defense. Toronto HAS to start doing a better job in this area in particular in terms of simply "knowing where your man is" at all times. I couldn't count the number of times Laker players slashed to the basket untouched. With Hoffa, Joey Graham and the cantankerous Jalen Rose the Raptors have some toughness and attitude...it's time to start using it.
The Refereeing - Ok, so the Raptors have only won 3 games and don't have an All-Star on the squad as of yet...but come on. Last night viewers were treated to another NBDL display of officiating by Miss Violet Palmer and co. and for a team that needs every break it can get, the Raptors simply can't get one from the refs. The best example of this was at the end of the first half. The Raptors had pulled within 4 points with about 9 seconds left and the Lakers holding the ball. Toronto looked to be seizing the game's momentum but all that changed with one non-call. The Lakers missed what appeared to be their last shot of the half but when Morris Peterson attempted to grab the rebound he was fouled and the ball went off him out of bounds. However there was no foul called on the play despite Peterson and coach Sam Mitchell's pleadings and the Lakers promptly inbounded the ball to Kobe Bryant who hit a buzzer beater killing any momentum that the Raptors had going. Mitchell is going to have to impress on his young squad that as frustrating as this can be, the team has to simply OUTPLAY their competition in terms of effort to start getting the benefit of some of these calls. Tonight, with the Lakers resting their starters in the fourth quarter, the Raptors perhaps didn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Even with the starters on the bench the Raptors never got closer then 7 points and this was with many of the Raptors own starters still in the game. Clearly this type of effort will not beat a tough Charlotte Bobcat squad this Saturday, who even without any All-Stars on its roster narrowly lost to this same Lakers squad by a 1 point margin last Sunday.