He had already done it three times this season. On three separate occasions Kobe Bryant hit game-winners for the Purple and Gold - but this one wouldn't go down. On a night where the Big Three of Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum played great, it was the team effort by the Raptors that led them to a 106-105 win on Sunday night.
Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant looks like he's closer to 100 percent. No, his finger is not healed but it looks like his back is feeling much better. He looked like he had a spring back in his step that's been missing for weeks. On two occasions he went in for emphatic dunks (making one and missing one). I can't remember the last time he threw one down. In fact, he was booed in Madison Square Garden on Friday when he simply laid it in. He was attacking more and relying much less on his jumper. And if that's not proof enough of his health, then how about his CAREER HIGH 16 rebounds. It says something when Kobe Bryant has a career high. He also had 27 points on 11 of 24 from the field and was one assist shy of a triple-double.
Bynum and Gasol took advantage of their size, scoring early and often around the rim. The two combined to shoot 19 for 37, scoring 43 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
The Lakers led nearly the entire game but could never extend the lead beyond 10 points. The Raptors kept chipping away and finally took their first lead with seven and a half minutes left in the fourth. From that point on there were nine ties or lead changes as it went back and forth. But it came down to the final possession for each team. With the Lakers up one, 105-104 with 11 seconds to go, Hedo Turkoglu drove to the lane and Gasol was called for a foul on the attempted layup. After the game Gasol said of the foul, "I don't think I pushed him. The momentum carried him to fall like that. It was a questionable call. ... My arm was on his back, but I never pushed him." To see for yourself - check out the video highlights (1:26). Perhaps I'm biased but I have to side with Gasol. How do you make a call like that with the game on the line? Turkoglu hit both free throws to give the Raptors a one point lead.
The Lakers had one more chance with 1.2 seconds on the clock. The Lakers timeout advanced the ball to halfcourt where Luke Walton inbounded the ball. He threw it in to Bryant (of course) but the pass was slightly off the mark and he couldn't catch it cleanly. He heaved a 30-footer that hit the rim twice before bouncing out.
The Lakers have dropped six of their past eight road games and still have five straight on the road.Game Notes: Add Amir Johnson to the list of athletic energy guys that kill the Lakers. The list includes Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, and Jordan Hill. I'm sure there will be more names to come as the season goes on.
-Can Andrew Bynum set a legal screen/pick? He either slides to keep the man he's screening occupied or he moves to quickly to roll to the hoop. I'm not sure if I've ever seen him set a legal screen or pick.