Kobe can't be stopped

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell has been playing the role of the mad scientist with his starting lineup, mixing together different concoctions in an effort to come up with a winning formula. Last night, he tossed in rookie centre Rafael Araujo in place of Loren Woods -- two games after inserting newcomer Eric Williams for Jalen Rose.

And while the move looked good early -- it staked Toronto to a 21-11 lead -- the result was another loss for the Raptors.

The Los Lakers held on in the fourth quarter, after trailing 93-92 heading into the final 12 minutes, to record a 117-99 victory at the celebrity-filled Staples Center, dropping Toronto to 10-20, and 0-2 on their current, three-game West Coast swing, with the final game going tonight against the Golden State Warriors.

Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 48 points, including a key three-pointer with 1:01 on the clock. He shot 16-for-18 from the free-throw line.

Not that the Raptors didn't play hard. They did.

Inserting Araujo into the starting lineup was a surprise only in that the big Brazilian was on the injured list for the past five games, suffering from "too many men on the rosteristis," although the official reason was a lower back strain.

Araujo was certainly active early in the game and ended the first quarter with four rebounds, three steals and four points. His final totals on the night were 10 boards and eight points, both career highs.

With 2:02 left in the third quarter, Araujo laid down a monster slam and the normally laid back rookie screamed at the top of his lungs.

"I'm not really going to worry about how good or bad he plays right now," Mitchell said. "We want him to bring something else to our lineup, a little more toughness. I think Hoffa has shown enough in practice to where it's time he's given an opportunity. If he plays hard, he's already done well in my book."

He certainly gave it all last night and will likely start tonight against the Warriors.

Point guard Rafer Alston sparkled for the Raptors, picking up 13 points and 11 assists while Chris Bosh had a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds along with a season-high four blocked shots.

The Raptors had seven players in double-digit scoring, one short of tying the team record, but they just could not stop the Bryant juggernaut.

Lamar Odom had a double-double for the Lakers, with 15 points and 13 boards.


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