It was easily predictable that the Lakers would score 120 points against the Raptors — the Lakers have the best offence in the NBA (113.5 points scored per 100 possessions) while the Raptors have the fifth-worst defence (111.2 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Lakers have a ton of weapons which allow them to put up big numbers even when Kobe Bryant plays just 28 minutes and Pau Gasol only plays 30 minutes. Andrew Bynum’s back and he’s didn’t get any smaller while his knee was healing, Shannon Brown could start for most teams but averages fewer than 20 minutes per game for the Lakers, and Matt Barnes (who we briefly thought had signed with the Raptors in July) can hit open jumpers when he’s not playing his brand of in-your-face defence.
The Raptors tried playing a zone for much of the game and it worked for a brief stretch in the third quarter, but zone defences are vulnerable to three-pointers and that’s what Barnes shot to essentially finish the Raptors off in giving the Lakers a 12-point lead with just over three minutes to go.
You really do have to pick your poison against this team. They’ve got plenty of inside scoring with Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, so the zone defence makes sense in trying to limit that damage. The problem is that the Lakers also have five players who make at least 35 percent of their three-pointers — and three of them are shooting 40 percent or better from that range. As noted basketball philosopher Jay Triano once said, “What the f*** are you gonna do?”
The Raptors actually took a six-point lead into the second quarter and the guy mainly responsible for that was Amir Johnson, who played all 12 minutes in the first quarter while scoring 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting, and he didn’t pick up a single foul in the quarter. With Bargnani out of the lineup, Amir stepped up and showcased his improved jumper and ability to put the ball on the floor and drive. We didn’t blink when Chris Bosh had quarters like this, and that’s who Amir reminded me of in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Amir’s back seized up on him at the end of the quarter and he was pretty much invisible for the rest of the game. It was no fluke that he hit those jumpers – he’s 10-for-24 (42 percent) for the season from 16 feet out after making 15 of 35 shots (43 percent) from that range last season. It’s clear that defences haven’t caught on yet that he can hit that shot — notice how Steve Blake switched off him when Amir got the ball before that last basket. Oh, and I think we can all agree that Matt Devlin got a little carried away when he called Amir’s alley-oop flush the “dunk of the year”.
DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza and Jose Calderon all had fantastic games — DeRozan’s 11-for-11 performance from the free throw line (including a trio of and-ones) was particularly impressive. The problem is that he doesn’t drive to the basket like that every game. He had 11 free throw attempts combined over a four-game stretch earlier this month. If he wants to average 20 points per game in this league, he needs to bring that effort more consistently.
Our final clip is a compilation of Joey Dorsey highlights from yesterday. Joey continues to make a case that he deserves to be part of the rotation with his rebounding, defence and hustle. He had a nice all-around line of six points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals in 17 minutes, and his behind-the-back pass to Kleiza at the beginning of this clip might have been the most surprising play I’ve seen a Raptor make this season.