Bryant’s Baseline Jumper Lifts Lakers Past Calderon, Raptors

Chris Chambers | Getty Images Sport

Just when it seems like the Lakers are falling out of the spotlight, what with Jeremy Lin torching the Lakers for 38 points and with the possibility of the Lakers finishing their Grammy road trip with sub-.500 results, Kobe Bryant pushed the Lakers right back into the spotlight.

With the Toronto Raptors playing without star player Andrea Bargnani due to injury, the Lakers’ primary goal was to emerge from their six-game road trip with a 3-3 record after an inconsistent stretch that saw the Lakers beating Boston at the TD Garden in overtime, but losing to the New York Knicks playing without Amare Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony the following night.

Despite an early surge in an equally early game (10AM start time??) that saw the Lakers dominating the first quarter, the Lakers would watch their 15-point lead slowly fade away across three quarters before falling back on Kobe Bryant’s bailout fallaway with 4.2 seconds remaining to take a 93-92 lead. When Raptor forward Rasual Butler would be called for a five-second inbounding violation, Bryant’s one of two free throws would push the Laker lead to 94-92, as a late airball from DeMar DeRozan would secure the victory for the Lakers.

The final three games of the Lakers’ road trip became an informal tryout for possible trade pieces for the Purple and Gold, as separate rumors and stories have all made their ways across the wire regarding the acquisition of a point guard to replace the aging Derek Fisher. Whether they be rumors for a Pau-for-Rondo trade or the mention that Mike Brown had considered signing Jeremy Lin off of waivers, Laker fans aren’t too happy watching opposing points guards tear apart the Lakers for career highs, especially if those point guards are ones the Lakers could have made moves for in the aftermath of the Chris Paul trade debacle.

That’s where Jose Calderon and his career-high 30 points came in on Sunday.

Calderon was everything the Lakers would hope for in a point guard: a high-efficiency scorer, a capable distributor, and, even more interestingly, a backcourt player who has history playing with Pau Gasol from their playing time in Spain. When Calderon drained a mid-range jumper with 16 seconds remaining to put the Raptors in the lead, he punctuated his audition for the Lakers with a bang that would have stung for Lakers fans if not for Bryant’s almost-predictable heroics.

HIGH POINTS

Kobe Bryant. Sometimes that’s all you need to say. Game-winning basket aside, Bryant’s biggest impact may have been his inclination to get Laker bigs Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum going early in this game, as both players posted double-digits points before halftime. This didn’t stop Bryant from scoring a team-high 27 points though. After halftime…well that’s Kobe Time, evident by his 16 second-half shots and ten(!) shots in the fourth quarter, none bigger than his fallaway with 4.2 seconds remaining.

Metta World Peace went 2-for-3 from behind the arc in today’s game against the Raptors. And no, I have not prepared a 2012/Mayan Apocalypse reference for the moment Metta World Peace would shoot better than 50% from behind the arc.

LOW POINTS

Tired legs began to emerge following the Lakers’ emotional overtime win over the rival Boston Celtics, their fourth game on the Grammy road trip and the night before a back-to-back in New York to face the Knicks. With an early flight out of Toronto and their next game being Tuesday night back at home against the Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers have a bit of time to rest their bodies back home before hitting the court in two nights.

Player Inconsistency and Rotation have been plaguing Lakers coach Mike Brown all season, whether it be the ongoing contest between Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes for the starting forward spot (with World Peace locking down the start this morning as Matt Barnes shot a woeful 1-for-5) or the constant rotation of point guards now with the return of Steve Blake to the court after injuring his ribs. Another missing body off the bench: the absence of one-time starter Josh McDaniels, who has seen nine minutes of action in the last six games for the Lakers, pulling down one rebound in that stretch and earning two personal fouls in that stretch.

James Cypert is a news and feature writer for LakerNation.com. When he's not perfecting his ill-advised Kareem-style sky-hook, you can find him on Laker Nation or follow him on Twitter.