After a terrific performance in a blow out win over the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors weren’t able to get over the hump against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night on the road. This was a high scoring affair, 118-116, it finished off with 5 extra minutes of overtime. This game was very entertaining, while Toronto had some troubles, they fought hard, and battled with great effort against an experienced opponent. Watching this game was both exciting and frustrating. Like usual, it was “What a shot by Demar Derozan“ entertainment, and “why isn’t Jonas Valanciunas playing?” frustration.
The first quarter was brilliant, as they were able to score 37 points, on near to 74% shooting, and ended with a 12 point lead. The second quarter came down, and as usual, Coach Casey went with that second unit. Quite frankly, it was nowhere near the energy the starting unit had in the opening period, and as much as the bench was able to put points on the board, the ball movement wasn’t there, and too many outside jumpers allowed the Lakers to come within striking distance. Down the stretch of the game, Toronto had relied far too much on the perimeter shot, which also came very early in the clock, ultimately leading to poor offensive execution down the road. Rudy Gay was absolutely brutal Friday night, shooting an abysmal 27% from the field, scoring 17 points on 26 shots. He wasn’t a very big help, especially with poor shot selection throughout the game. He could have been the x-factor had he played better, period.
The defense tonight was barely above average. They were able to get some great stops throughout the game, but inconsistency hurt them, which allowed the Lakers to get back into the game. The team did not do a successful job of running the Lakers off the 3-point line, leading to 36% shooting from the perimeter, and 14 threes. Especially with three ridiculous shots from downtown by Kobe Bryant – which were very well defended – that hurt them. Toronto made a big mistake not fouling on that near final possession in the 4th quarter. Amir Johnson flying by, Rudy with a late contest, resulting to an outside swish for Kobe Bryant. Kobe also had the game-winning dunk in overtime, and if you called that basket easy? That’s an understatement. But, than again, when you have a superstar named Kobe Bryant, and his resume says “4th quarter is my quarter,” it’s just unfair.
Rebounding wasn’t pretty. Especially boxing out and closing out those defensive possessions. Toronto looked lost, and with those offensive rebounds by the Lakers, they were able to fire back and hit some big shots. Toronto lost the rebounding battle 47-43, also allowing 14 offensive rebounds, compared to Toronto’s seven. Coach Dwane Casey‘s decision of not playing Valanciunas in the final stretches of the game, was quite mind-bobbling, who was able to produce 6 rebounds (2 offensive, and played with immovable energy) in a questionable 16 minutes. This is an issue that needs to tighten up, and even though they didn’t get blown out in the rebounding category, the offensive rebounding Los Angeles had over Toronto was unacceptable.
Brutal. I just had to create a category in our post game report card. Playing near 11 players in the first half, not one of them named Terrence Ross. Jonas Valanciunas with 12 points, 6 rebounds and a blocked shot. He only played 16 minutes, and did not get a lick of the 4th quarter. I understand that Coach Casey is trying to win games, and relying on veterans that know and have experienced the game, BUT, with playoff hopes likely diminished, why not try to win with the prospects? The player management was awful, and stayed with the second unit far too long in the second quarter, nonetheless the entire game! Also, there was a man named Demar Derozan who was getting the ball into the hoop, yet he decides to run a play for Alan Anderson. Just speechless up to this point.
Game-ball: Kobe Bryant
Kobe. Was. Great. There’s not another word to describe the game he had against the Toronto Raptors. The ‘Black Mamba’ scored 41 points, on 50% shooting, and 22 shots. It was an unbelievable effort, he was efficient, and not only was he scorer, he was able to get his teammates involved with 12 assists, and made some key defensive plays throughout the game. He is the greatest player of this generation.
Honourable Mention: Demar Derozan
DeMar played extremely well on the offensive end, and the defense wasn’t all too bad either. He was awesome, and the setting might have played into his hand. 28 points, on 67% shooting, and 18 shots. Efficient night for the Compton, California native, also adding 5 rebounds, and getting his teammates some scoring opportunities with 5 assists. I was shocked at the team’s unwillingness to run plays in crunch time for him. He was delivering.
Overall, it was a good effort. They battled hard on the offensive end to get their shots, there were individuals that played their hearts out on the defensive end – Amir Johnson, Alan Anderson – and were able to keep the overall rebounding margin close. They lost this game because of poor coaching decisions, Rudy Gay’s unbalanced scoring effort, poor team shot selection, and mental lapses on the defensive end. The Raps are starting to play strong after the bad week they had, but to come away with these victories, and become a great team, mistakes have to be minimal.
Photo credit to Richard Mackson, USA TODAY sports.