After their six game Grammy banishment from Los Angeles we still have more questions than answers for the Lake Show this season. Thankfully there is still this dude sporting #24 for the Lakers capable of answering some of those tough questions all by his lonesome.
One of the biggest questions coming into the early morning matinee in Toronto was whether or not the Lakers would answer the call of the rooster in time for the crack-of-dawn tip. In surprising fashion, the Lakers opened with an offensive explosion dropping 34 in the first quarter and racing out to an 18-point first half lead.
It didn’t take long for the Lake Show to revert back to their hideous offensive form. After the first they never scored more than 21 in a quarter and after halftime they never got back into a rhythm.
The Raptors, on the other hand, grabbed momentum by the arm and drug her out onto the dance floor as if the Laker defense was playing their song. Only one starter for Toronto cracked double figures. A career best 30 from Jose Calderon including some very clutch shots made it consecutive games in which a lead guard has had a career day against Los Angeles. Mitch Kupchak please take note.
Having led for the entire contest, the Lakers lost the lead for the first time with less than three minutes to play in the fourth.
You know what that means. It’s Mamba time. Kobe Bryant was built for finishes like this.
Sensing how long the flight how would be having blown a big lead, Bryant grabbed the game by the horns.
Trailing by four Bryant buried a big three that came courtesy of Linas Kleiza giving him a little too much space to operate. Later Bryant would come up with a big steal then followed that up by dropping a dime to Metta World Peace who inched the ball over the rim. But that still wasn’t enough to seal the deal.
Bryant nailed one of his trademark fade away jumpers from the corner with 4 seconds left on the clock that would prove the game winner in an unnecessarily close 94-92 game.
Of course Rasual Butler’s inability to avoid a five second inbounding violation went a long way in securing the victory. But the headline will always be Bryant in a finish like this.
Kobe’s 27 points came on 23 shots including an improved 3 of 7 from deep. Not his best shooting game but he hit all the ones the Lakers needed most.
What the Lakers need most right now is for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to get back into the offensive flow. Pau had a solid 16-point, 17-board effort but his efficiency is way down this season. 6 of 15 shooting for 16 points is not a typical Gasol game. He’s still looking to find touches in better areas on the court in Mike Brown’s offense.
At least Bynum hit double figures in points. His lame outing in New York was inexcusable. Still, an All-Star center needs to do better than 14 and 9 against a thin frontline like the one featured in Toronto.
Coach Brown insists that the offensive production will pick up soon enough. Just how soon? The season is almost halfway gone and this team can’t maintain leads or even crack 100 points.
The bench production was better this time around. Getting Steve Blake back up to speed is only going to help better the second unit. However the growing concern is trusting this unit to maintain large leads. Time and time again the Laker bench is buried by the opposing counterpart, praying to give the starters something to work with when they return to the court.
To be sure the road trip did little to ease any of the fears surrounding the Lakers so far this season. Thankfully they gave quality efforts in Denver, Boston and Toronto to at least make this a .500 swing. Coach Brown can thank KB24 for saving what could have been a losing road trip.
Relying on Kobe is becoming the theme of the season. He’s being asked to do it all these days which wouldn’t be a problem if the Lakers didn’t have both Gasol and Bynum. More help is definitely needed.
While a .500 trip was about as good as things could have gone for the Lake Show it’s not the kind of result that indicates the potential for a title contender. Kupchak has got work to do before the trade deadline. This team hit some high notes on the Grammy trip but they also fell flat on some sour notes. Luckily we’ve got Kobe Bryant to deliver a soul-felt solo at the conclusion of a tiresome trip.