Kobe Comes Up Clutch, Lakers Beat Raptors 94-92

The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game following a disappointing loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night. The Lakers allowed Jeremy Lin to score 38 points and they could not stop the Knicks on key defensive possessions late in the fourth quarter.

This was the Lakers’ last game of a six-game road trip and their goal was to come out with a victory against a less-talented Raptors team.

First Quarter

The Lakers had a fast start to the game and they were clearly the more energetic and aggressive team. Los Angeles scored the first seven points of the game, and held the Raptors scoreless for the first couple of minutes. The Lakers were attacking the basket early and the perimeter shooting contributed to the nice start.

The Lakers continued to shoot the ball well and the Raptors had no answer for the assault. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum continued to punish the smaller Toronto team. The two big-men combined for ten of the Lakers’ first 15 points and helped open up a 15-6 lead with 6:20 left in the quarter.

The first quarter was all Lakers and they were finding success on both ends of the court. Whether it was from the perimeter or in the paint, the Lakers were connecting on their shots. On top of that, the Lakers’ length and size was disrupting the Raptors and forcing them to miss shots. The Lakers were shooting 10-12, 83 percent, while the Raptors were at 33 percent. At the 3:41 mark of the opening period, Los Angeles opened up a 13 point lead, 24-11.

The Lakers dominated for the majority of the opening period, but began to play sloppy once the quarter started to wind down. Los Angeles turned the ball over seven times in the opening 12 minutes and allowed the Raptors to gain a little momentum.

The quarter concluded with the Lakers ahead 34-19, thanks to 70 percent shooting from the field, including four three-pointers. Gasol and Bynum were leading the Lakers in scoring with eight points each.

Second Quarter

Even with Kobe Bryant and Gasol on the bench, the Lakers continued to play smart and maintain their lead. Bynum was the center-piece to the Lakers’ offense and he was getting help from the other role players. Thanks to a pair of free-throws by Steve Blake, the Lakers opened up a 39-22 lead with 10:10 left in the period.

The Raptors stringed together several baskets unanswered, but just when it seemed as though they would put a dent into the lead, the Lakers answered back. Troy Murphy continued to fire from the arc and that brought the lead back to 16, 45-29 at the 6:52 mark of the second quarter.

However, momentum again turned over to the Raptors side and they turned a 18-point deficit down to 45-33 with a litter under five minutes left in the half. The Lakers seemed to get a little complacent and were not attacking Toronto like they were in the opening quarter. Los Angeles’ nine turnovers hurt them dearly and bad offensive possessions also played a role in the Raptors’ resurgence.

On top of that, the Lakers were giving the Raptors easy looks near the basket and Toronto was attacking the paint on nearly every possession. The easy looks allowed the Raptors to remain in striking distance and the Lakers had no answer for the penetration. At the two minute mark of the second quarter, the Raptors put together a nice run sparked by Jamaal Magloire to cut the lead to ten, 52-42.

The first half ended with the Lakers holding a 54-46 lead after a last-season James Johnson dunk. Following a dominate first quarter, the Lakers held just an eight point lead. The Lakers were shooting 57 percent from the field with Gasol leading the way with 12 points.

Third Quarter

The Lakers were having trouble scoring in the paint and much like his game against the Knicks, Andrew Bynum could not find the bottom of the net on his shots. The Lakers were getting the ball inside, but they could not convert on seemingly easy shots. At the 10:20 mark of the third quarter, the Raptors cut the lead to five, 54-49.

The Raptors were the more energetic team to open up the second half and they were the ones who were attacking the rim. Toronto was forcing the Lakers to commit turnovers and their speed allowed them to run the open-court. Jose Calderon was facilitating the offense well and found DeMar DeRozan near the basket on several occasions. With 5:53 left in the third quarter, the Raptors cut the 18 point deficit down to three, 59-56.

However, the Lakers never allowed the Raptors to take the lead and kept their advantage a few possessions ahead for nearly the entire quarter. When the Raptors were beginning to put together a run, Kobe Bryant halted any momentum and relied on his perimeter shot to keep the Raptors away. With 2:41 left until the fourth quarter, the Lakers turned their once three point advantage to seven, 68-61.

After 36 minutes, the Lakers held a 73-67 lead. The Raptors were still in striking distance and the Lakers needed another solid quarter to put them away.

Fourth Quarter

With Kobe Bryant on the bench, the Lakers’ offense seemed off and they could not find a way to score. The Raptors had all the momentum and the Lakers did not have a reliable scorer to stop the run. The Raptors opened up the final period with more energy than the Lakers and that resulted in them cutting the deficit down to one, 73-72, with 9:19 remaining in the game.

However, once Kobe Bryant was subbed back into the game he restored order and expanded the Lakers’ lead. The Raptors cut the deficit down to one, but Bryant provided the Lakers with perimeter shooting and paint penetration. With 6:00 left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers held a six point lead, 82-76.

Nevertheless, even with Kobe on the floor, the Raptors remained in striking distance. They continued to attack the Lakers on the fast-break and their three-point shooting helped them throughout the fourth quarter. Calderon kept on making big plays for the Raptors and his long-distance three brought the Raptors back within one, 82-81 with 4:51 left in the period.

Toronto then opened up its largest lead of the game with a little over two minutes remaining, 88-84, and was completely dominating both ends of the court. Momentum was clearly on the Raptors’ their side and the Lakers had no answer for their offensive weapons.

The final minutes of the game went back-and-forth and eventually the Lakers came up clutch and made the key plays when the game was on the line. Kobe made big plays in the final minute including his three-point shot and a fast-break assist to Metta World Peace to take the lead.

The Lakers faced a one-point deficit with only seconds remaining in the game, but like always, Kobe came up clutch. Bryant hit a fade-away jumper to give the Lakers a lead and in the process added another game-winner to his career highlight reel.

The Raptors played strong all the way to the end, but Bryant and the Lakers showed poise and calmness in the fourth quarter. As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers held on, 94-92, and took home a victory in the final game of their six-game road trip.

The Lakers will be back in action on Monday when they host the Portland Trailblazers at 7:30 p.m. PST.

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