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Lakers ask for a Kobe Bryant bailout once too often

Bryant, who has saved Lakers three times this season with game-winning shots, can't get a long, difficult three-point try to go down at the final horn, and L.A. suffers one-point loss in Toronto to fall to 1-2 on eight-game trip.

January 25, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Kobe Bryant has bailed the Lakers out plenty of times this season, his last-second shots winning games against Miami, Milwaukee and Sacramento.

Then came Sunday, the end of Bryant's buzzer-beating touch and the continuation of a trip that hasn't exactly started the way the Lakers wanted.

Bryant missed a long, fadeaway three-point attempt at the horn, a shot with a high degree of difficulty in the first place, and the Lakers lost to the Toronto Raptors, 106-105, at Air Canada Centre.

The Lakers are 1-2 on their eight-game trip, 2-6 in their last eight road games and 33-11 overall this season, no longer good enough for the NBA's best record. Cleveland is 34-11.

And there's also this: Coach Phil Jackson might be prophetic, or something like that, having told the Lakers before the trip they would go 3-5 based on the way they had been playing.

Not good for the Lakers. Not at all.

Anybody surprised they've lost two of three on this trip?

"I think we are as players, but the coaching staff is definitely not because they told us we were probably going to lose five based on the way we've been playing basketball," center Andrew Bynum said. "I think P.J. said it."

P.J. would be Jackson, who didn't have much to say after the game, declining to go into detail on a couple of important issues.

The Lakers dominated in the paint, outscoring Toronto, 56-38, but curiously took only nine free throws, making all of them. The Raptors made 21 of 26.

"I don't want to comment on that part of the game," Jackson said. "It's too arbitrary."

Jackson also didn't criticize veteran referee Bennett Salvatore, who called a foul on Pau Gasol with 1.2 seconds left and the Lakers ahead by one.

Hedo Turkoglu drove to the basket, tried to slip past three Lakers, fell to the court and was given two free throws.

Turkoglu, a 77.7% free-throw shooter coming into the game, made both.

"I'm not surprised by anything in the NBA," Jackson said flatly.

Gasol, however, was surprised.

"I don't think I pushed him," he said. "The momentum carried him to fall like that. It was a questionable call. I don't think I pushed him at all. My arm was on his back, but I never pushed him."

Bryant had 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists, falling just short of his 17th career triple-double. He also fell short on his three-point attempt.

Luke Walton led him a little too much on an inbounds pass from the right side, but Bryant corralled the ball and launched an off-balance shot over Antoine Wright that hit the front of the rim and bounced away.

The official play-by-play log indicated Bryant's miss was from 37 feet, though it appeared closer to 30. Whatever the distance, Bryant has made some uncanny shots this season, including a 27-foot banked three-pointer to beat Miami.

Not on Sunday.

"It just rimmed out. It happens," Bryant said.

Bynum encountered some personal turbulence while getting from New York to Toronto, missing the team flight Saturday morning and paying his own way on a commercial flight later that day.

He woke up in time to put his bags outside his hotel-room door Saturday morning, as is the custom for NBA players, but fell back asleep and didn't wake up until the team had departed for the airport.

"His bags made it to Toronto, but he didn't," Jackson said. "Rookie mistake, as you would call it, even though he's not a rookie."

Bynum, in his fifth season, was fined an undisclosed amount and paid more than $300 for his plane ticket but was not punished beyond that . . . other than having to cram his 7-foot frame into a tiny seat on a regional jet.

"The plane was super small," Bynum said.

Gasol (22 points), Bynum (21) and Bryant scored at will Sunday, but so did the Raptors.

Center Andrea Bargnani had 22 points, including a three-point play on a reverse layup that cut the Lakers' lead to 105-104 with 1:16 to play. Raptors forward Chris Bosh had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

The Lakers were left staring at another road loss, with many more road games awaiting them.

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