LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant and the Lakers said all the right things about the rising Raptors -- before zapping them with their own solar power.
Actually, the Western Division champions didn't out-shine Toronto as much as out-work it in two crucial stretches in a 112-89 win last night at the Staples Center, the final of a four-team, pre-season tournament hosted by the Lakers. It was the Raptors' most lopsided loss of three in the pre-season (4-3).
The Lakers saw what the Chris Bosh-Jermaine O'Neal tandem could do in Saturday night's destruction of the L.A. Clippers and watched as the two keyed a third-quarter surge and a seven-point lead, Toronto's only sustained momentum of the night.
"They're going to be potent," NBA MVP Bryant said before the game. "Chris is a tough player. I got to see all of his skills in the Olympics, ball handling, rebounding, passing ... he's a phenomenal player."
"It will be fun to see them together," added Lakers forward Luke Walton. "If it works out, they could turn out to be one of the top teams in the league."
Bryant had 13 points, joining Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza in double figures. Farmar's back-to-back highlight hoops late in the game began a runaway and he was the Lakers' leader with 16 points.
Bosh played closed to 40 minutes and led the Raptors with 11 rebounds, while third-string guard Hassan Adams had a bucket at the buzzer to tie Anthony Parker at 14 points for the Raptors' best.
But with O'Neal feeling the effects of back-to-back games and Toronto's starters and bench in a shooting funk, the Raptors were behind in the match until midway through the third quarter.
Point guard Jose Calderon was visibly frustrated at not getting any support and Toronto was hovering around 40% shooting for a third straight game.
Coach Sam Mitchell turned to Andrea Bargnani to fill in for O'Neal, who was cut down to 21 minutes last night. Bargnani had missed Friday's win over the Clippers with a bruised right leg and Mitchell couldn't tell if he was going to be fine until the lengthy game between the Clippers and FC Barcelona concluded about half an hour before the Raps warmed up.
"Well, his knife and fork worked well today and he's top 10 in the league for that," Mitchell joked.
Bargnani had 11 points. Calderon, who had nine assists, was stripped a couple of times, part of seven first-half Laker steals. Another high-wire act by Joey Graham, including a soaring dunk and 14 points from Parker, helped Toronto cut the 15-point lead to as little as one just before the half expired.
Mitchell rewarded rookie Roko Ukic's fine effort the night before by using him ahead of Will Solomon, the other candidate for backup point guard behind Calderon. Solomon strained his left quad muscle during his 91 seconds of court time in the second quarter and Adams filled in with his best game of the pre-season.
Last night's game was physical at times and when you add the Spanish see-saw between L.A.'s 7-foot Pau Gasol and Calderon, and that Bryant now counts Bosh in his class after they won gold for Team USA in Beijing, it points to the two regular-season games taking on a greater meaning.
Lakers' coach Phil Jackson, whose club beat FC Barcelona 108-104 on Saturday night, also was intrigued by the new-look Raptors.
"O'Neal will be getting a lot of post-up opportunities," Jackson said. "He can shoot from the outside and I think Bosh will have a chance to do a lot of outside shooting, too. It looks like it will work out pretty well for them."
Jackson enters the season with 976 regular-season wins and though he won't reach 1,000 before playing Toronto on Nov. 30, he should have the milestone before the re-match at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 4.
The Raptors wrap up the pre-season schedule in Edmonton tomorrow night when they play the Denver Nuggets.
JACK HAS A PAL
Lakers' super-fan Jack Nicholson has been sharing courtside seats with pal Lou Adler of late. Adler, 74, produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Carol King's Tapestry album as well as mirroring Nicholson's taste for lovely ladies.
Adler has been married to actresses Shelley Fabares and Daryl Hannah's sister, Page, and has a son with Britt Eklund.
MADE THE GRADE
Raptors senior vice-president Maurizio Gherardini has had a special guest with him on this trip to California and Alberta, his teenage son Michele. This is the Italian lad's first visit to North America, a graduation gift from his father, who also arranged for Michele to meet Lakers star Kobe Bryant on Saturday night.
BOSH A RAYS FAN
Chris Bosh wasn't pleased to hear the Boston Red Sox were making the ALCS a nail-biter. He is friends with Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder/designated hitter Cliff Floyd.
Many expect the Lakers to be among the class of the NBA for many years to come, but the team is having trouble coming to terms with the youngest of its star players, Andrew Bynum.
The centre, 21 on Oct. 27, broke out last season, averaging 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game before knee surgery ended his season early in the new year.
Bynum could become a restricted free agent next summer if the Lakers don't sign him to an extension by Oct. 31.
The Lakers are reluctant to offer the big man a maximum deal (five-year extension worth up to $85 million US) until they are convinced his injury problems are a thing of the past.