The Los Angeles Lakers headed home for Friday night’s game to take on the new-look Toronto Raptors. The Lakers are entering the game with an undefeated record at 5-0, and are looking to take advantage of the Raptors’ lack of star power. It will not be surprising to see Phil Jackson bench his stars for the majority of the game, the Lakers’ bench will have no problem handling the players from Canada.
Although the game did not draw much attention or anticipation, the Staples Center crowd was fired up from the opening tip. The game opened up with the Lakers missing two-straight threes and committing “silly” turnovers. The team’s first basketball came two minutes into the game, when Lamar Odom hit a 15-footer.
However, the Lakers were struggling to find a shot and were playing poor defense on the other end. With 8:12 left in the opening quarter, the Lakers were trailing 8-4. The team was missing point-blank layups, and was unable to knock-down wide open threes.
With 6:45 left in the first quarter, the Lakers were able to tie the game up after Fisher’s mini-run. Fisher dropped in two free-throws, and on the next-play he stole the ball and got an easy two. The Lakers were beginning to find their grove on the offensive end, as both Kobe and Fisher were going to the cup at ease. With just over five minutes left in the period, the Lakers and Raptors were knotted up at 12, but Toronto was allowed to shoot 60% from the field.
After the time-out the Lakers began to play more efficiently and were asserting their will in the paint. Kobe and Fisher were once again leading the charge; they were forcing countless turnovers and were getting all their points close to the basket. The Lakers went on a 10-0 run after the time-out, and lead 20-12 with 3:19 left in the quarter. Pau Gasol got into the action in the latter part of the quarter, as he used his size to over-power the relatively short Raptors.
The first quarter was highlighted by a fast-break between Kobe and Gasol. Kobe stole the ball, ran down the court and made a behind the shoulder-pass to the big man Gasol. Phil Jackson subbed in both Barnes and Blake in the first quarter, and they helped the Lakers continue on their run. Steve Blake hit three three-pointers in under four minutes.
The Lakers ended the first quarter on a 23-8, and led 33-20. The team’s leading scorers were Steve Blake with nine, and Kobe Bryant with eight.
The second period started off with four Laker reserves on the court, but the team did not lose a step. The Lakers blocked two straight Raptor shots, one by Ratliff, the other by Brown.
However, Toronto began to gain momentum as they found seams in the Lakers’ defense. The Raptors cut the lead down to nine, 40-31 with about eight minutes left in the half. Both Bryant and Fish were on the bench for the first half of the second quarter, which benefited Gasol.
He helped maintain the Lakers’ lead, and had 12 points half way into the quarter. The Lakers were leading 46-38, with most of their starters resting on the bench. Luke Walton made his season debut mid-way into the quarter, but missed a wide-open three point shot. The Raptors went on a 14-4 run and eventually cut the lead down to one with 2:20 left in the half.
The second quarter ended with the Raptors leading, 58-55, after going on a 23-9 run in the last six minutes of the game. Gasol led the Lakers with 14 points, while Barbosa had 15 points for the Raptors. The Lakers played a great first quarter, but had a let down in the second. The Laker shot 51% from the field, while the Raptors shot 55%.
In the third quarter, the Lakers relied on Kobe Bryant to jumpstart their offense. Kobe was more assertive with the ball and was far more aggressive than any other player on the court. Kobe was scoring for the team, but he was also setting up his teammates with this pin-point passes. The momentum was shifting towards the Lakers, as players like Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol started to get going on the offensive end.
The Lakers turned their three point deficit to a three point lead with 7:13 left in the period, 70-67. The game continued on at the same rate, and neither team could stir up a run. The Lakers and Raptors went back and forth, and the third quarter ended with the Lakers leading 82-78.
The Lakers and Raptors were neck-and-neck the whole game, and it seemed as though the game will be decided in the final minutes. The Lakers came into the final period up by 4, but they quickly expanded the lead to nine, 89-80. Gasol was leading the team on the court, as Kobe and Fisher were resting on the bench.
The Lakers continued their fourth quarter surge, and captured all the momentum. Even though the Raptors had a few “mini” runs left in them, the Lakers had no trouble finishing them off.
The final buzzer rang and the Lakers beat the Raptors 108-103. The team’s leading scorer was Pau Gasol with 30, followed by Kobe Bryant with 23. The Lakers finished the game shooting 48% from the field, and advanced to a 6-0 record.