Raptors Take a Bite out of Lake Show

If by chance you missed the game, recapitulation of critical plays down the stretch can be found in my Rapid Reaction. Or if you missed my comments during the game, catch up with me on twitter @anepicmess.

Most of us witnessed a great contest live, though. That really was a spectacular game. As a Laker fan, I’ll start with the Los Angeles side of things, and then take on the Toronto perspective shortly after. In case you don’t remember, I recently came out of the closet about my love for the NBA’s lone Canadian team. It doesn’t help that I have become a frequent visitor of their extremely popular RaptorsRepublic website. It makes perfect sense, then, that I would continue to offer any analysis I have regarding them. But first, Kobe & Company.

L.A. Perspective

In a strange turn of events, the only L.A. team that won on the road wasn’t the one wearing purple and gold. The Lakers did not expect to come into Toronto and blow out the Raptors, as that has hardly been the case for them on the road of late. From the beginning, the Lakers were exerting their will on the Raptors inside. The points in the paint differential was ridiculously in favor of L.A., only it didn’t seem to matter when the final buzzer sounded.

The three best Lakers played their best games, yet they still managed to lose. If you didn’t catch that, I implied two things: 1. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum are the Lakers three best players. 2. They played their best games.

Both of them are true, and 9 times out of 10, that translates into a victory for the Lakers. For instance, if the Lakers play this well against Boston a week from today, they will probably win. Today was just one of those days. Kobe was spectacular, scoring 27 points, tying a playoff career-high in rebounds with 16(against Sacramento, back in 2000-that’s just off the top of my head, by the way), and dishing out 9 assists. It was all for naught, though, as he missed the potential game-winner as the clock expired. In his defense, the in-bound pass was tipped, and he was falling away as he shot it some 27-plus feet away.

Mountain Drew played very well inside for the Lakers, taking the contact and finishing 9 of 15 from the field. Almost all of his shots were inside the paint, and he did a great job of using his height-advantage over Chris Bosh on the glass. He had a few put-backs that helped keep the Lakers ahead for most of the game. I’m pretty sure somebody told Drew about the Bynum-for-Bosh rumors swirling around NBA circles, and he decided to take it out on Bosh himself. Drew blocked two of CB’s shot attempts, further irritating Toronto fans with their now-polarizing star.

And then there’s Gasol. Pau started off the game aggressive, taking 8 shots in the first quarter and finishing with what looks to be a season high 23 attempts. Pau was not the most efficient scorer, connecting on less than half of his attempts(10), but he was productive nonetheless. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the big Spaniard had two plays that he won’t live down until he redeems himself.

The first one was when Kobe missed his own layup attempt, stole the rebound away from the Raptors, then passed it in while straddling the baseline to an open Gasol, who missed the ensuing layup. Kobe eventually grabbed the rebound and scored anyway on the same possession, but it was big for Pau’s psyche.

The second play was that absolutely brain-fart foul he committed on Turkoglu in the final seconds of the game. The Lakers were clinging to a 1 point lead, and Hedo blew by Gasol toward the lane, where he was met with a slew of purple and gold jerseys ready to aid their Spanish teammate. Unfortunately, Gasol still felt the need to push Turkoglu in the back on a pass attempt, allowing him to clinch the game at the free throw line.

This wasted a fantastic game from Kobe, and an otherwise unsung performance by Israel’s Favorite Son, Jordan Farmar. Well, he’s not exactly from Israel, but he is of Jewish descent nonetheless. Farmar played very well tonight, overcoming some dubious foul calls by the officials not-named Bennett Salvatore. As I stated in my Rapid Reaction, Farmar made a great play on the ball against Chris Bosh, forcing a turnover that the Lakers then scored off.

On top of his good hands, he hit key shots for the Lakers while Kobe was getting some much needed rest. He made 3 of his 4 three-point shots en route to out-scoring the trio of Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, and Lamar Odom 17-14 by himself. It’s too bad nobody will remember this day as much as they do the Yom Kippur War of ’73.

Sidenote: To those who aren’t aware, Lamar Odom, who has failed to show up since being benched again, rarely plays well these days. It’s when he does play well that the Lakers have their highest winning percentage. For those Toronto fans who think they might have shut him down, that’s only partially true. Lamar is one of the most frustrating players for Laker fans. Trust me. Also, a scary thing for Laker fans to consider is how Kobe feels about his team after this loss. He was in facilitator-mode throughout, and if his team comes up empty on a night when his assist total came up 1 short of a triple double, how many shots do you figure he takes on Tuesday when the Lakers travel to D.C.?

Toronto Perspective

As a preface, let me just say that I think this is the kind of win that can send a team in the right direction. So, if Toronto ends up rattling off 8 out of 10 wins over its next 10 games(which shouldn’t surprise anybody, looking at their schedule) after this, don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is how runs start in leagues like the NBA and NFL. A certain brand of confidence comes from beating the best. Look at the Dallas Cowboys after they beat the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints; they win three straight games, two of which were shutouts, and advance to the post-season where they won their first game in over 13 years.

In the NBA, that’s how things go as well. Now, for teams that aren’t talented, this is often a fluke. The Raptors are an extremely talented team, however. For them, it’s all about meshing the talent they have, and using a collective defensive mindset because their one-on-one defenders aren’t top-tier.

Don't let his innocent, nerdy face fool you; Andrea Bargnani can ball.

That said, the one Raptor that has flown under the radar this year is Andrea Bargnani, especially defensively(probably because he looks kind of nerdy). This is a guy that has a reputation for being able to shoot the ball well, which is a fair assessment. The one thing he doesn’t get enough credit for is his defense. He’s surprisingly fast for a man of his size(about 7 feet tall), and has great strength on the block. Whenever he was forced to defend the Laker bigs with the ball, he made scoring on him tough. The Lakers’ Twin Towers had to earn their points against Bargnani. Offensively, Bargnani came up big. He didn’t have the most efficient night, making only 7 of his 17 attempts, but he was a perfect 7 for 7 from the charity stripe on his way to a team-high 22 points.

The same cannot be said for Chris Bosh. I love the guy, as evidenced here, but he’s ill-equipped to deal with men of Mountain Drew and Pau Gasol’s size. They have a few good inches on him, including their tremendous wingspan. Bosh struggled with Bynum for most of the night defensively, and even had his shot blocked by the New Jersey Native twice. I think Bosh did a great job adjusting after halftime to the height of his opponents.

There were two things that stuck out for me from Bosh. First, the clutch fadeaway he hit over the out-stretched arms of Bynum with about 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter. It was a big shot, although admittedly not as big as Bargnani’s and-one layup on Gasol in the final two minutes of the game. Second, his ball movement. Bosh did a great job of keeping the offense moving, and that allowed for both the other players to get in rhythm, and for the game to come to him.

As a young star, it becomes difficult to pass the ball when your team is in a nail-biter. Good-to-great players have to learn when to take over, and when to defer. I thought Bosh walked that line fairly well tonight, executing an effective points-by-commission plan that succeeded in the long run. Bosh still got his numbers, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 big rebounds against L.A., but he did so by letting the game come to him. Great job all around by CB.

Just so my non-L.A. readers know, I live only twenty minutes away from where Demar DeRozan played his High School ball. In fact, he and Derrick Williams, my alma-mater(La Mirada High)’s potential NBA prospect, played against each other. A friend of mine that goes to all La Mirada High Basketball games gave me a mini scouting report on DeRozan, saying that he is a bit lazy(obviously can’t get away with that in the NBA), but can D-up when he wants to. I thought he did a decent job on Kobe tonight, showing that he can play defense given his athletic abilities and natural quickness.

One thing about the kid though is that he apparently is not a great rebounder because he relies solely on his hops to do so. That is problematic in the NBA, where players with that kind of athleticism are a dime a dozen.

The perennially pouting Jarrett Jack had another solid game starting for the Raptors. Since moving into that role, his play has picked up. It started when Jose Calderon fell victim to injury, and head coach Jay Triano liked it so much he stuck with it after Calderon returned. I think this is good for Toronto, as Jack brings a different kind of intensity defensively. He’s not as much of a pure-passer as Calderon, but he can hit the same shots, and is a better finisher around the rim. I give the credit to Triano for having the stones to stick with what’s working.

Calderon has obviously lost confidence this year, and the free agent pickup has been pulling his weight on both ends of the floor. Tonight was no different as Jack finished with 18 points and 4 assists. He had a stretch mid-way through the 3rd quarter and up until the 4th quarter where he made many a critical shot for Toronto.

Overall, the Raptors did a great job of weathering L.A.’s Kobe+Big Men storm. They stuck with their gameplan, came up with critical stops when they needed to, and hit some massive free throws(none bigger than the final two by the 6’10” forward from Turkey).

Kudos to the Raptors. They are beginning to rival the  San Antonio Spurs as the second place team that I have a soft spot for. Plus, their head coach has one of the coolest names. It sounds like a mobster’s, and I wouldn’t  at all be surprised to see it used in a movie like Casino.

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8 Responses to “Raptors Take a Bite out of Lake Show”

  1. Morning Coffee – Jan 25 | Slam Dunking Says:

    […] Raptors Take a Bite out of Lake Show « An Epic Mess The second play was that absolutely brain-fart foul he committed on Turkoglu in the final seconds of the game. The Lakers were clinging to a 1 point lead, and Hedo blew by Gasol toward the lane, where he was met with a slew of purple and gold jerseys ready to aid their Spanish teammate. Unfortunately, Gasol still felt the need to push Turkoglu in the back on a pass attempt, allowing him to clinch the game at the free throw line. […]

  2. Bargs Says:

    Terrific reports on the game. Keep watching me, there’s a lot more to my game than most realize (though you’re starting to see it)…you just have to watch on a regular basis to see it.

  3. sam Says:

    very weird game. I thought the lakers played well and most of the time it would result in a W.
    kobe was mad at pau again at the end ala luke in NY 04-05.
    “shoot the fn ball”

  4. Andrew Says:

    Good analysis, great stuff.

  5. Sookie Stackhouse Says:

    I’m puzzled by your friend referring to DeRozan as lazy. He has a reputation as an extremely hard worker and a good learner. Also, “the perenially pouting” Jarrett Jack? Is that your personal reading of his facial expression? He is the most positive guy on the team–he has emerged as the team leader in many ways, a great mentor to the young players. Loved your analysis otherwise–the Raptors are a fun team to watch.

  6. malasEy 'THE SNAKE' yonis Says:

    YO LAKERS ARE SNAKES….STR8 UP! BUT YA IM A COOL GUY REGARDLESS

  7. Anthony Burrola Says:

    Sookie? True Blood is awesome.

    Here: “Speaking of Jack, I’ve paid relatively close attention to him since his Portland days(because my Lakers never seem to win there and he continually draws my ire), and I couldn’t help but notice the look he has on his face all the time. It’s like a combination of sadness and intensity. It’s really weird, you almost think he’s in pain.”

    From my “NBA Celebrates Kobe Day with 13-Game Sleight” post.

  8. Tweets that mention Raptors Take a Bite out of Lake Show « An Epic Mess -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by blogs of the world and Anthony Burrola, Anthony Burrola. Anthony Burrola said: @raptorsrepublic Hahaha. Official recap, courtesy Epic Mess https://epicmess.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/raptors-take-a-bite-out-of-lake-show/ […]

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