Lakers 120 Raptors 110
TORONTO — Effort will overcome some disadvantages in this transitional season for the Toronto Raptors, but against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, a determined performance wasn’t enough to make up for their shortcomings in size, health and depth.
Even with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol not at their best, the defending NBA champions just had too many weapons at their disposal, as they rode a big afternoon from their bench to a 120-110 victory.
The Raptors, playing without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (sore right ankle) and guard Sonny Weems (back spasms), were all over L.A.’s starting five and jumped out to an early lead with smart, relentless play.
But subs Andrew Bynum (16 points, seven rebounds), Shannon Brown (14 points) and Matt Barnes (12 points, nine rebounds) helped the Lakers regain control in the second quarter, and then maintained the edge as the second unit outperformed Toronto’s thinned out crew 57-27.
“When their bench gets going it’s tough,” said Raptors forward Amir Johnson, who scored 14 points in 35 minutes despite tightness in his lower back. “That’s why they’re one of the best teams in the league. I thought we hung with them, we competed, we just came up short.”
Linus Kleiza, who matched a season-high with 26 points, and DeMar DeRozan, who scored 23, led the charge for the Raptors (10-18), who lost for the third time in four outings. Jose Calderon added 20 points and 12 assists while Leandro Barbosa chipped in 11 points, but the team struggled to find an inside presence to match up against Gasol and Bynum, especially once Johnson’s back flared up.
The Raptors were out-rebounded 46-35 and gave up 23 second-chance points before an Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,935, two other reasons they couldn’t keep this one as close as they did a 108-103 loss in L.A. on Nov. 5.
“It’s not effort or anything like that,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano. “I thought our guys played really hard, and I think for the most part they played really well. I think we beat a lot of teams today — just not these guys.”
Bryant, playing with a sprained right pinky finger suffered Friday in Philadelphia, led the Lakers (21-7) with 20 points while Gasol added 19 points and eight rebounds. They took the lead for good midway through the second quarter and didn’t let up in winning their fifth straight to finish a seven-game road trip at 6-1.
“They’ve been solid this entire trip,” Bryant said of the Lakers bench. “They came in and gave us a big boost.”
Toronto never got closer than six in the fourth quarter and trailed by as many as 13 in the final frame, even though starters Bryant, Gasol and Lamar Odom only played the final 4 1/2 minutes.
A wild third quarter ended with the Lakers up 86-79 after Barbosa intercepted an inbounds pass with two seconds left and drained a prayer from halfcourt. The circus shot capped a see-saw 12 minutes in which Bryant poured in nine points as L.A. went up by as much as 16 only to watch Toronto whittle it to within four.
DeRozan starred with 19 third-quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting for the Raptors.
The Lakers led 57-49 at the half, undoing all of the Raptors’ strong start during a dominant second quarter in which they outscored them 29-15 and held the hosts to dismal 3-of-18 shooting. More impressive is that they did it without a single point from Bryant — the L.A. bench erased an eight-point deficit and handed over a 42-40 lead to the starters with six minutes left in the quarter.
“We fought the whole time,” said Kleiza.
“We brought it, the effort was there, everything was there, we just played against a very good team.”
The Raptors finished an entertaining first quarter up 34-28, behind 12 points and three assists from Johnson. His finest moment came late in the frame, when he took an alley-oop pass from Jerryd Bayless and threw it down with one hand.
But Bryant helped keep things close with some dazzling play. In quick succession, he scored after mesmerizing DeRozan by switching hands off the dribble, doing again with a spin move, and a third time by charging to the hoop for an easy dunk.
“We were just playing,” said Bryant. “I love Demar, I have known him for a long time, obviously, with him coming to my camps and things like that. It was nothing personal. I think he did great (in the third quarter). He has continued to work on his game, continued to work on his jump shot, and I think he will be fine.”
Notes: Triano said Bargnani’s ankle problems are related to the knee issue that forced him to sit out Wednesday’s loss to Chicago. “He has been limping around because of the pain in his knee and it has caused irritation in his ankle,” he said. … With the Raptors short-handed, centre Solomon Alabi made his debut. … Aside from Bargnani and Weems, the Raptors were also without Peja Stojakovic (swollen left knee) and Reggie Evans (broken right foot). … Theo Ratliff (left knee surgery) was the only inactive for the Lakers. … Former Raptor forward Jerome (Junk Yard Dog) Williams, still a fan favourite, was in the crowd.
Pacers 88 at Boston 98
BOSTON — Paul Pierce had his seventh career triple-double and Boston extended its winning streak to 13 games by holding off the Indiana Pacers 99-88 on Sunday.
Pierce finished with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double since 2006, and the Celtics got a boost from the return of Shaquille O’Neal, who had 11 points after missing four straight games with a sore right calf. Ray Allen added 18 points, scoring 12 in the second half, and Kevin Garnett finished with nine points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who improved to 12-1 at home.
Danny Granger led Indiana with 18 points. Roy Hibbert added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the pesky Pacers, who hung with the Celtics until the final few minutes.
Hawks 82 st Nets 89
Devin Harris had 22 points and eight assists, and Brook Lopez added 16 points.
It marked the second straight time that the Nets (8-20) beat Atlanta (17-12) in Newark this season, having earned a 107-101 overtime victory Nov. 23.
Stephen Graham scored 10 points and Troy Murphy added nine, both season highs, and newly acquired Sasha Vujacic had 10 points off the bench.
Mike Bibby scored 19 points, and Al Horford and Josh Smith added 15 apiece for the Hawks, who lost for the fourth time in six games.
Hornets 108 at Pistons 111, OT
Will Bynum made a driving layup with 7.4 seconds left in overtime as Detroit edged New Orleans.
Detroit trailed by one after a pair of free throws by David West with 15.0 seconds remaining. After a brief scramble, Bynum picked up the ball in the backcourt and went straight to the basket, getting a hard pick from Jason Maxiell along the way and scoring while drawing a foul.
Bynum missed the free throw, and New Orleans called a timeout, but Maxiell tipped away the inbound pass, outfought West for the ball and dunked with 0.5 seconds remaining.
Rockets 102 at Kings 93
Kevin Martin scored 22 points and Houston won for the fourth time in five games.
DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Kings, who lost their fifth straight and 19th of 21 games.
Luis Scola had 17 points and nine rebounds and Kyle Lowry added 13 points and seven assists for Houston, which outscored the Kings 23-12 in the fourth quarter.
Suns 113 at Thunder 110
Grant Hill scored a season-high 30 points and had 11 rebounds, Victoria’s Steve Nash added 20 points and 10 assists and short-handed Phoenix snapped Oklahoma City’s five-game winning streak.
Phoenix played while waiting for trade acquisitions Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to join the team but found a way to edge past the Thunder down the stretch.
The Suns let a 13-point lead slip away but were able to recover and take the lead for good on Robin Lopez’s right-handed dunk with 6:45 left. Oklahoma City got within a point in the final seven seconds, but never got the chance to take the lead as the teams traded foul shots.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points, and Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green scored 19 apiece.