Lakers – Raptors Running Diary

FisherAs always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Raptors Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Raptors Running Diary 11-30-2008
Lakers 112, Raptors 99: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Raptors: Kris Humphries, Jose Calderon

In talking to Jose Calderon before the game about Pau Gasol, it didn’t come up that he’s not actually playing tonight. He said he was feeling “good,” but clearly he wasn’t talking about his hamstring. This really hurts the Raptors, who aren’t close to as good of a team without their point guard. They’ll slide Anthony Parker to the point, start Jermaine O’Neal at center and stick Joey Graham at the two to try and guard Kobe.

Starters
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar, Pau
Raptors: Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal

First Quarter
11:56 Weird play to start things off here in Canada as Odom received the tip from Pau, but threw it in the backcourt to Fisher for a turnover. He did make up for it on the next offensive possession when Walton found him for an alley-oop layup. Great pass from Walton.

Before I forgot, you should know a few things about Toronto: Canada Dry gingerale tastes better here; you can’t watch American TV shows online; and the world’s tallest free-standing structure is here, the CN Tower, which Ty shot video of (check back soon).

10:36 Fisher for three. The Lakers are always a much better team when Fish is stroking the long ball early.

10:10 Kobe did something he wasn’t doing often against the Knicks while scoring 61 points: miss a shot.

9:06 After Vladimir Radmanovic came in for Walton (two early fouls), Bryant stuck his first jumper on a fade-away. By the way, Gasol has barely touched the ball on offense…

…But he’d do just that on the next possession in missing a jumper, but was then called for a foul that didn’t look like much on O’Neal, L.A.’s sixth foul in four minutes.

6:32 As Bosh scored on Odom with the Raptors taking advantage of their height (this must be the first game this season where L.A.’s had a height disadvantage), the Lakers were looking anything but sharp. The pattern continued as Odom missed an easy shot on the baseline (4-of-11 shooting for the team*) before getting called for a foul on Parker’s made three from the corner. After the free throw, Toronto led 21-9 with Josh Powell joining Gasol, Vladi, Kobe and Fish. I think it’s a good time for some energy/toughness (Peezy).
*Toronto was a red hot 8-of-12 from the field.

6:20 Good time for a Kobe three, followed by Powell’s first defensive rebound.

5:40 Fisher’s second triple quickly cut Toronto’s lead in half as L.A. responded as well as they could have out of Phil Jackson’s timeout.

4:18 Want another triple? There’s Kobe again, getting to eight points and making it a 23-18 game.

3:48 How about another? Triple No. 3 for Kobe, and the fourth straight three-point make for the purple and gold capped a 12-2 run. The Raptors had led 21-9 just a minute ago, but thanks to Josh Powell, it took just 2:50 before they led 23-21. Radmanovic just rimmed out on his three attempt, the only miss of that stretch.

Toronto called a timeout to talk it over, and put Jamario Moon into the game to try and check Bryant.

3:01 Yeah, so, that didn’t really work for Moon. Bryant up-faked him, drove right past him, contorted his body around O’Neal (one of the league’s best shot blockers in the last 10 years*) and used some English to get the ball in the hole off glass. That was nasty, and gave Bryant 13 points. Remember, he had 18 in the first quarter against the Knicks.
Editor’s Note: We’d see this come true later as Jermaine swatted nine shots.

0:50.0 Toronto, after making two-straight jumpers (including a Bargnani three) to go up 30-23, missed off a nice inbounds play, which was a surprise because Jason Kapono (who’s set to defend his two-straight three-point contest wins at All-Star Weekend) took the shot.

0:07.5 Bryant missed a free throw! Surprising as he made all 20 on Monday. He did make the first of two to put L.A. within five at 31-26 after the first quarter. Toronto shot 48 percent from the field and turned the ball over just once (to four Lakers turnovers) while out-rebounding L.A. 13-9.

Second Quarter
10:38 Fantastic finish from Odom on the reverse layup, which preceded a great swat from the smallest player on the floor – Jordan Farmar – on the tallest, O’Neal. Joining Farmar on the court were Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic, Odom and Gasol.

9:26 Odom was at it again for his sixth point on after cutting to the hoop and getting a nice bounce pass from Vujacic to tie the game at 33.

8:57 L.A. took its first lead since early in the first when Ariza picked off a Bosh pass and fed Farmar for a breakaway two-handed dunk.

One interesting stat that Ty just pointed out to me: Toronto has 12 assists on 15 field goals, which is a very high percentage and indicates excellent ball movement. The Lakers aren’t far behind with 10 on 15.

Oh, Canada: I’m quite upset to have missed Canada’s National Anthem, particularly as it’s the only time this season the Lakers are in Toronto, and considering how sick I am of all the different versions of the Star Spangled Banner. Not sure why you need to know that.

7:13 Vujacic, who’s been very effective at making plays thus far, found Gasol with a slick pass for a layup. Meanwhile, after the Lakers called timeout, Toronto’s mini-blow-up-mascot, Rap-tor, completely dominated a dance routine. Just killed it. It’s one of those super puffy but shrunken air-filled things. Sorry for the bad description. Whatever.

5:39 As Graham’s whistled for a foul after tripping Bryant, the obnoxious fan behind me yelled: “I’ve seen better dives in a swimming pool.” Uh, yeah dude. Where else would you see good dives? Alas, the possession resulted in Odom’s fourth field goal.

4:51 Chris Mihm converted an and-1 for three points to tie the game at 47. That’s the first time Mihm’s been over two points in 2009, but surely not the last with Andrew Bynum set to miss 8-to-12 weeks with his torn right MCL. Still, Mihm expectedly doesn’t have his confidence, following his make by missing right underneath the rim after an offensive rebound. He also committed three fouls in three minutes. The question is how many minutes does Mihm need to regain his edge?

2:05 A Graham dunk followed a missed layup from Odom to give Toronto its biggest lead of the quarter at eight, though Bryant pulled two points back from the free throw line. In other news, Queen Elizabeth II – who’s reigned since 1952, is still on Canadian currency. Kinda weird, if obvious, right?

1:26 Gasol’s two free throws capped a 5-0 Lakers run from the foul line to draw within three.

0:35.0 Teams simply get up for the Lakers. The Raptors are playing well and with energy despite missing their point guard and getting beaten up against Cleveland last night, which I suppose the Lakers have come to expect. L.A. will have to match that effort in the second half to make up a lead that grew to seven when Bargnani’s two free throws put Toronto up 63-56.

0:00 Make it five points. Fisher nailed a pull-up jumper as the buzzer sounded to get to 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, plus two assists.

Two interesting notes around the league: Orlando’s Anthony Johnson, stepping in for the injured Jameer Nelson, scored 20 points in the first half to lead the Magic to a 72-48 lead over the Clippers. Meanwhile, LeBron James had 20 points with eight minutes left in the second quarter as he takes aim at Kobe’s 61.

Jordan FarmarThird Quarter
Let’s see if the Lakers go ahead and turn up their defensive intensity to start this period as some of us may expect. The thing that might make it a bit harder is how big Toronto’s playing around the rim: O’Neal, Bosh and Bargnani have 40 combined points and 17 rebounds.

11:37 Well, it wasn’t one of those three frontcourt players but instead Parker who snuck in for an offensive board over Odom and Gasol, drew the foul and made both foul shots for a seven-point lead.

11:25 Beautiful answer from Bryant with a reverse layup; Kobe had 17 points in the first half with five boards.

10:33 Whether it’s due to the defense or not, Toronto wasn’t missing at all to start the quarter, getting consecutive jumpers from O’Neal and Bargnani before Kobe’s fourth three made it 69-63 Canadians.

8:12 A pretty baby hook from Pau gave him 16 points with his seven boards and three dimes. Gasol’s certainly been good (shocker) since Bynum went down. He was at it again off a nice Walton feed on the next possession to cut Toronto’s lead to two.

6:34 Before Pau scored his fifth bucket of the quarter, he was whistled for a foul while trying to block a Graham dunk. Gasol went over to the ref to ask why he called a foul that appeared to be all ball, and the ref simply pointed to the jumbotron, where the replay was being shown. Pau sorta nodded, walked back to the lane and got ready for a possible rebound.

4:54 A perfectly executed pick-and-roll from Bryant and Gasol resulted in Pau’s dunk. That’s pretty much exactly how you draw up the P&R. Bargnani answered with a jumper before Odom nailed a jumper to become the fourth Laker in double figures as L.A. pulled within three once again.

2:48 After a Parker three, the teams exchanged hoops to make it 85-79 Raptors, the home team left to a standing ovation from their fans. Gotta love the spirit from the Canadians here in what’s definitely one of my top three favorite arenas in the league.

0:39.3 Bryant swished a jumper from just inside the three-point line at the top of the key, leading all scorers with 26 points. The youngest looking player in the league, Roko Ukic (from Sasha’s Slovenia), then blew a wide-open layup to give the Lakers the last shot, which Bryant didn’t get off before the horn. Yet and still, after the Raptors had probably played their best game since losing to Boston in OT on Jan. 11 (I’m guessing here, admittedly), they led by only two, 87-85, after three quarters.

Probably the most troubling stat for the Lakers was their complete lack of bench production, which combined for only eight points, seven boards and six assists. Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza and Powell (on the floor with Gasol) will have a chance to turn that tide to start the fourth.

Luke WaltonFourth Quarter
11:45 Not waiting long to back that up was Peezy, who nailed a jumper to tie the game.

10:37 Bargnani’s been awfully good tonight, draining a triple with Powell draped to him on the perimeter to get to 21 points. Powell, however, came back with a seven-footer at the other end. Even more fun is watching Vujacic draped all over his younger countryman, both of whom are expected to play for Slovenia in the coming European Championships.

9:07 Speaking of Ukic, he hit back-to-back layups to put the Raptors up 94-91 into a timeout. In what’s otherwise been a good game ops performance from Toronto, they played the “Hey Mickey” song during the TO, which I didn’t appreciate. Terrible song.

8:33 The refs called their 1,345th foul of the game when Gasol breathed on O’Neal.

7:41 After O’Neal blocked his seventh shot on Powell*, – yup, no typo – JP came right back and swatted the seven footer at the other end. This is one of the many reasons we love Peezy. Meanwhile, a fan has a really good point by saying: “Kobe you suck!” when the MVP checked in…
*After the game on the plane, Spero Dedes was confused by this and started offering all kinds of suggestions, which I’ll now do with his radio broadcasts for the rest of the season. On second thought, since he never messes up, I’m in trouble. Alas, it was his seventh block in total, not on Peezy.

6:27 … So Kobe hit him with a step-back three to give L.A. the lead. Obviously Bryant didn’t hear the heckler, but it was still funny. He doesn’t suck.

5:57 Vujacic for three to put L.A. up four at 98-94. Farmar found him in the corner after Odom had cleared a defensive rebound over O’Neal and pushed it up the floor.

Bosh Injured: Toronto’s (very good) PR staff just informed me that Chris Bosh sprained his right knee and is out for the night. That’s about the worst news Toronto could have gotten, and sends Ty’s fantasy team further into injury hell (he has Jameer Nelson, Chris Paul, Bynum and Bosh). It happened at the 8:50 mark of this quarter.

4:39 Boy has Pau been good tonight. After Odom faked Bargnani out of his white shorts but missed the layup, Gasol followed to climb to 28 points with 12 rebounds plus four helpers.

3:56 Kobe, with a deep step-back jumper. He’s got 30 points now, and he definitely sucks. I gotta hand it to the guy behind me.

2:33 A great defensive possession from Lamar Odom, who first made Bargnani pass up a shot with the contest, then collapsed to the rim to grab a rebound in traffic. The ensuing push up the floor got Kobe a jumper to give the Lakers a 106-100 lead.

Odom followed it up with a solid contest on Parker’s layup attempt to get another possession back for L.A., resulting in 1-of-2 Gasol free throw makes with 1:23 on the clock, and a seven-point Lakers lead.

1:09 Make it four, after a tough pull-up three from Parker over Odom.

0:42.7 Big play from Graham, who forced Bryant into a tough jumper, which missed badly, and then ran out to make a layup, plus the foul, over Vujacic. He did miss the free throw, which made it a two-point game.

0:23.6 And then there’s Mamba. Again with Graham draped all over him, Bryant swished a 16-foot pull-up jumper in the lane for a four-point lead. He then returned to the bench with that steely-focused look he often displays, and nearly destroyed assistant coach Frank Hamblen’s clenched fist with a forceful hand slap. That was fun.

0:18.3 After Parker missed a jumper, Bryant (probably) iced the game with two free throws, climbing to 36 points and giving the Lakers a six-point lead.

0:11.9 There’s the game. Parker missed again, and Gasol took the ensuing free throws for an eight-point lead. Interesting to see Vujacic’s pained look when Gasol didn’t pass him the ball to get fouled. We know well that Sasha loves pressure situations, with zero exceptions. He’d get his chance moments later when Ukic poked him in the eye after laying the ball up, and Sasha made both to give L.A. a 115-107 win earned in money time.

Up next is a team called the Boston Celtics, who probably weren’t sad to see L.A. need big minutes from Gasol, Bryant and Fisher to beat a feisty Raptors bunch.