Kobe Bryant loves playing the Toronto Raptors. The guys guarding him may change, the coaches scouting him may change - it doesn’t seem to matter.
Bryant added another chapter to his abuse of Toronto Sunday night, putting up the 20th triple-double of his career - 31 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds - to lead the Lakers to a 129-122 OT win over the Raptors. Nick Young (a.k.a. Swaggy P a.k.a. Mr. Iggy Azalea) was huge off the bench, scoring 20 on 6-for-11 shooting.
The Raptors were led by Kyle Lowry, who had 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a determined effort. Greivis Vasquez, starting for the injured DeMar DeRozan, had 19. Lou Williams came off the bench and had 19, including this ferocious dunk on Robert Sacre.
Despite this highlight, Lowry, Williams, and Vasquez relied heavily on volume shooting in the absence of DeRozan. The three had their moments, but shot 38 per cent combined from the field. Lowry was especially off, shooting 10-for-28, leading all players in field goal attempts.
With 59 per cent of the Raptors’ shots coming out of the hands of those three guards, the Raptors never really established a post presence against the notoriously soft defence of Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer. Jonas Valanciunas, to his credit, overcame a tough offensive night with some key defensive stops, including one on Kobe Bryant as time expired in regulation, going straight up to avoid a foul call.
Without DeRozan, it seemed like an unsure night overall for Toronto, as Dwane Casey experimented with lineups quite a bit. Several different five-man combinations played at different times as he tried to balance defence and offence. The Raptors effort showed that disconnect, many times trying to spark their offence with a long three, a shot they went just 9-for-34 on overall. It was ugly basketball for the most part, proof of a team that will need to find their way without their All-Star.
To their credit, the Lakers were able to ride a hot start all the way through. Los Angeles shot 57 per cent from the field in the first half as Kobe distributed effectively. Wayne Ellington provided an unexpected ten points off the bench, but most of the buckets from Bryant’s generosity went to Hill and Boozer down low. Kobe then was able to take over late shooting the ball, which may be a recipe for success if the now 4-13 Lakers are to improve on their lowly start.
It’s not all bad news, though. The Raptors wrap the month of November 13-4, are still first in the East, and have the first game without DeRozan under their belt. They’ll get a chance to make things right in Sacramento on Tuesday night before wrapping their quick west coast tour in Utah on Wednesday. Drake knows things will get better.
What were your takeaways from tonight's game?