Outrebounded 49-31, beaten in points in the paint and simply shown up by a struggling (though talented and young) Toronto Raptors team, and maybe it was a good thing. Of their perfect 6-0 record, the Lakers simply outscored their opponents, but did very little to keep their opponents from scoring. Their offense, frankly, is gold, especially when they’re moving the ball and running their offense. Their defense, however, is no more than suspect at this point and they’d be wise to start figuring out that part of their game…and soon.
After falling behind by four points early in the first quarter, the Lakers quickly found their rhythm. Derek Fisher (11 points on 4-7, four steals) stole the ball from Andrea Bargnani and beat Jarrett Jack to the hoop for a layup. Kobe Bryant (23 points, six assists) ran full-court and sent a Showtime pass over his right shoulder to a running Pau Gasol (30 points, seven rebounds) who tossed it in the hoop for two. Steve Blake (14 points, 4-6 from three), hit three after three and suddenly the lead was 20-33 after the first quarter. Unfortunately, there were still 36 minutes left to play. Toronto knew that, but the home team, after 12 minutes of game time, appeared to check out.
The Raptors came out of the second quarter gate at full throttle, their bench leading the way to 38 points in the final 12 minutes of the half. The Lakers? They were barely awake to witness their 13 point lead turn into a deficit when Leandro Barbosa hit a last second three to end the second quarter.
The second half was not much different from the first. The lanes that led to Toronto’s basket remained as open as the 405 freeway at 3 am, resulting in layup after layup. The suffocating defense that earned the Lakers their Championship trophy have been amiss this early regular season, and tonight was the most glaring evidence of it all.
The Toronto Raptors are considered a jump shooting team, filled with players, like starting center, Andrea Bargnani, who can and often shoot from the perimeter. With the Lakers leaving holes in their defense, however, the Raptors were practically invited to party in the paint, which they did and it almost resulted in the home team’s first loss of the season.
Pau Gasol, though he scored 30 points and finished with a +13, grabbed his FIRST rebound five minutes into the third quarter and was guilty of providing very little to no interior defense. A seven-footer, regardless of build, should develop a shot-blocker’s mentality simply based on his physical advantages. Pau, the last line of defense at center, failed time and again to prevent penetration, attempt to intimidate and showed little effort in crashing the glass. Gasol is usually just as efficient on the boards as he is scoring in the paint, but tonight was clearly not the norm.
Lamar Odom (seven points, nine rebounds) did a respectable job on Bargnani, who shot just 5-13 for his 14 points. Odom, however, was 2-10, choosing to continually shoot from the perimeter rather than driving to the hoop which is one of his strengths. In a game where the Lakers were outrebounded by 18, the causes are not surprising when their leading rebounders in Odom and Gasol combine for 16 total boards, a quantity that each big man is capable of attaining themselves.
Tonight, the Lakers had the talent and savvy to win a game where their opponents were clearly putting more effort and energy into their play. Sometimes, talent and savvy can go a long way, but hopefully the defending champs remember that it can’t take you all the way.
Pre-game Thoughts: Last time the Raptors were at Staples, Kobe killed them with a clutch game winner. Hopefully it won’t come to that tonight.
Half-time Thoughts: 58-55 – The Lakers gave away a 13-point lead courtesy of Toronto’s 38-point quarter. Steve Blake is 4-4 from the field, all from downtown.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: The Lakers defense in its entirety – one on one defense, help defense, transition defense – all are still subpar. Lots to work on in practice tomorrow.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Derek Fisher seemed to be the only one engaged defensively in this game. He was active on both ends of the court, playing passing lanes and collecting four steals as a result. If only his scrappiness tonight was contagious.