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Lakers' victory over Toronto doesn't go by the boards

Listless-looking Lakers are overwhelmed in the rebounding column, 49-31, and are distinctly underwhelming on defense, but still have enough to hold off Raptors, 108-103, and improve their record to 6-0. Pau Gasol scores 30 points.

November 05, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant collects a pass in the post against the defense of Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan in the second quarter Friday night.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant collects a pass in the post against the defense… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The Toronto Raptors blew into town, apparently bringing a blast of chilly northern air into Staples Center.

If the Lakers were the NBA's hottest thing, they cooled off quickly, needing every minute of Friday's game to fend off the unheralded Raptors.

Their defense betrayed them and their interest level seemed mild at best, Pau Gasol's 30 points just enough to push them to a 108-103 victory.

Friday's events won't be in the Lakers' end-of-season highlight video, for sure. Toronto had a 38-point second quarter and actually outrebounded the Lakers, 49-31, Gasol taking exactly zero boards in the first half.

The Lakers (6-0) were one of three undefeated teams coming into Friday, and they followed the path of Atlanta (6-0) and New Orleans (5-0) . . . barely.

"I think it's our commitment to defense," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We have to get that in order. We've been giving up 100 points almost all the time."

In addition to Gasol, who made 12 of 22 shots, Kobe Bryant had 23 points, Steve Blake had 14 and Shannon Brown had 12, but offense wasn't the problem.

The Raptors (1-4) burned the Lakers for 24 fastbreak points and penetrated the lane with ease.

"They got a lot of easy buckets," Brown said. "They were getting a lot of layups, whether they were half court or full court."

The Lakers hadn't lost at home to Toronto since 2001, and it looked like Friday would be no different after they took a 33-20 lead in the first quarter.

Things looked fine for the Lakers after Bryant found Gasol on a length-of-court pass for a layup, and then faked a pass to Lamar Odom on the break before dropping the ball off to Gasol for a dunk.

But Leandro Barbosa singlehandedly erased the Lakers' lead, scoring 15 points off the bench to help give the Raptors a 58-55 halftime edge.

Yes, the Raptors led at halftime.

"Any time you give up a 38-point quarter, it really comes back to haunt you," Jackson said.

In the very end, the Lakers' defense returned, Brown and Derek Fisher coming up with steals in the last two minutes, and Bryant swatting Linas Kleiza's layup attempt in the final seconds to keep Toronto far enough away from an upset.

Barbosa had 17 points and former USC forward DeMar DeRozan had 15 for the Raptors, who received 15 rebounds from former Westchester High standout Amir Johnson and 14 from Reggie Evans.

The Lakers had two close games against the Raptors last season, losing in Toronto, 106-105, and winning at home, 109-107, so Toronto shouldn't have been discarded as a threat despite its record.

But Friday marked a cooling-off period as well for Odom, who came into the game shooting 70%, becoming the first NBA player since Charles Barkley in 1991-92 to shoot at least 70% through the first five games (minimum 50 shots).

Odom, who turns 31 Saturday, had seven points on two-for-10 shooting, to go with nine rebounds. Gasol finished with seven boards.

If it seems like Bryant sets a new standard every game, it's almost true. After eclipsing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's team record for career minutes Wednesday, he passed Jerry West for second-most field goals in team history. Bryant has made 9,019 shots, second to Abdul-Jabbar (9,935) on the Lakers' list.

After the Lakers walked quietly off the court, their defense to be discussed heavily at Saturday's practice, they could take comfort in the fact they won, even if it seemed like a loss.

"I thought it was good for our team to have to face a little adversity," Jackson said.

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