After Wednesday night’s loss in Utah, I wrote half-seriously that just keeping the games in Los Angeles and Portland respectable would be an accomplishment.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was possible. Give credit to the Raptors for their effort on Friday against the two-time defending champion Lakers.
Toronto began play relaxed, playing controlled basketball, and kept the score close through the game’s opening minutes. However, a 23-8 run to close the first quarter gave the Lakers a 13-point cushion after one.
In the second quarter, the Raptors bench, led by Leandro Barbosa (who scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second) and Jose Calderon, who may have played his best game in two years, absolutely dominated the Lakers bench. The 13-point deficit evaporated quickly, and a late Barbosa three actually sent the Raps into the break with the lead.
If you went to sleep at halftime, assuming Toronto would find a way to end up on the wrong side of a second half massacre, you actually missed quite an entertaining and hard-fought 24 minutes of ball.
The Lakers’ talent simply won out over the course of the second half, but the Raptors fought tooth and nail to the end, receiving contributions from every body that touched the floor.
Looking back at the last two ball games in Utah and L.A. it’s interesting to note that the Raptors were outscored by a combined 32 points in the first quarters, but actually outscored both the Jazz and Lakers throughout the rest of the games.
If Toronto can open strong in Portland on Saturday, and avoid an early double-digit deficit, could they actually have the chance to steal one on this brutal road trip?
The Blazers have been waiting to rebound from their overtime loss to the Thunder on national TV on Thursday, while the Raptors may have expended every ounce of energy they had just to keep it close at the Staples Center. Safe money would probably be on a blowout, but the final result may lie in how effective the Raptors are in limiting early damage.
Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 25 Min, 12 Pts, 4-8 FG, 4-4 FT, 15 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk
Lakers Player of the Game: Pau Gasol – 44 Min, 30 Pts, 12-22 FG, 6-6 FT, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Blk