LAL 118, Raptors 116: Mar. 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday night contest against Toronto, the Lakers trying to move to over .500 for just the second time this season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Raptors: K. Lowry, D. DeRozan, R. Gay, E. Clark, D. Howard

FIRST QUARTER
3:15 The Lakers started the game well from an energy standpoint, but the Raptors were weirdly hitting everything they threw up, enough to take a 28-21 lead when Kyle Lowry got an and-1 to fall in traffic (missed the free throw). It was literally the 10th straight field goal made by the visitors, with the Lakers missing a series of shots around the rim (8 of 18 overall, 44.4 percent).

0:00 Unfortunately for the home team, Toronto didn’t cool down at all in the final moments, instead reaching 37 points for a 12-point advantage as DeMar DeRozan capped a 6 for 7 individual quarter with a buzzer-beating layup. The Raptors hit 10 straight shots at one point, and 17 of 23 overall (74 percent), mostly on jump shots as the Lakers looked confused as to how it was happening. And we can concede that the Raptors were inordinately hot.

SECOND QUARTER
8:34 The LAL bench was producing, but the lead stayed at 12 as John Lucas hit all three of his shots off the pine, continuing the blistering start for the Canadians. Antawn Jamison had six points with five boards, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks a triple each, but it was on the defensive end where they’d need to find an answer.

2:10 The seventh Bryant assist turned into the seventh Howard field goal, and cut the lead to seven when it had ballooned to as many as 15. Howard was doing damage on both ends, reaching 16 points with four boards, three blocks and three steals, while Bryant’s two free throws in the final minute got him into double digits in points as well at 10. Bryant added another foul shot in the final seconds, and Metta World Peace tipped home his missed second one to cut the lead to six at the half. That wasn’t too bad considering how poorly L.A. started the game; the key was on D, as Toronto shot only 40.9 percent in the second quarter after that white hot first period.

THIRD QUARTER
6:18 L.A. cut the deficit to four with a few early buckets, but then watched the Raptors push their lead right back into double-digits, a 6-0 Toronto push making it 76-65 into a Lakers time out halfway through the period. Frustration was palpable in the arena, the Lakers unable to carry over any momentum whatsoever from the 20-0 run to close the game at New Orleans. In came Jodie Meeks, joining the rest of the starters, in what has been the best Lakers line up this season at +48.

0:00 The lead dropped to five when Meeks hit his second triple, but the seventh and eighth turnovers from Bryant (the team had 10) allowed a 4-0 Raptors run to push it right back to nine. And so, L.A. would again have quite a bit of work to do in the final quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER
4:18 Bryant was going to the foul line on repeat, hitting 12 of 14 in the game and 6 of 6 in the fourth, and Nash drained a triple from the top of the key off Kobe’s 12th assist, but Toronto was still scoring on the other end, getting consecutive hoops at the rim from Johnson to take a 105-99 lead with 2:38 to play.

0:00 The Black Mamba. Vino. Boy, was Kobe doing Kobe things in the final minutes, draining not one but two huge threes, both contested, in the final 30 seconds. The first came with 29.3 seconds left to cut the lead to one out of a time out play, and the second with 5.5 seconds left after two Kyle Lowry free throws put the Raptorts up three. Staples went nuts, of course, with Kobe chants, and L.A. got the stop it needed in the final seconds as Gay missed a pull-up jumper. Overtime, we go, thanks to No. 24.

OVERTIME
2:20 L.A. scored the first point of OT, but then failed to score on their next several trips, at least until Bryant forced his way to the hoop and got to the foul line as Amir Johnson picked up his sixth foul. Two makes cut the lead to one, after the Raptors had scored on consecutive trips. Howard’s fifth block quelled the next Raptors possession, but L.A. turned it over on the next play as Nash couldn’t get a shot off and Howard got called for three seconds.

0:00 Have we mentioned a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant? Well, with the game tied at 115 thanks to a massive three-pointer off the dribble from Nash, the Lakers got a big stop on the other end and sealed a rebound. On the ensuing play, Bryant split the defense at the top of the floor, and exploded all the way to the hoop for a two-handed dunk, willing his 34-year-old legs for a finish that gave him 41 points, and the Lakers in place for a victory. They were helped as Alan Anderson missed the second of two free throws on the other end, and surprised as Nash missed 1 of 2 with five seconds left, but saw Gay’s (Rudy was 2 for 15 in the second half and OT) 17 footer go off the rim as time expired. The Lakers won, in dramatic as ever fashion, and pull within just 0.5 games of Utah for the 8th and final playoff spot. Up next are the Bulls on Sunday. We’ll see you there.