Double whammy for Raps

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

A tough night at the office took on a whole new meaning for the Raptors last night.

Never mind they put up their best effort in weeks only to come up short down the stretch in a 115-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Air Canada Centre.

The real tough part came at the 8:50 mark of the fourth quarter when Chris Bosh left the bench and did not return.

The early diagnosis was a sprained right knee. He already had left for a local hospital with an evening of diagnostic testing on the menu when the locker room opened to the media.

This team has struggled with Bosh in the lineup. Without him, one can only imagine how bad things could get.

But Bosh's injury was just the beginning of the bad news.

A sore right hamstring, the same one that kept Jose Calderon out for 11 of 12 games last month, required a night off, leaving the Raps in a bit of a lurch.

In the absence of Calderon and with no Bosh down the stretch, the Raptors had Joey Graham and Jermaine O'Neal and it was almost enough.

But the Lakers, underemanned themselves, still had their franchise cornerstone and with the game on the line, Kobe Bryant was, as usual, money.

Bryant didn't come close to matching the 61 points he scored Monday in New York but his 36 on 13-of-28 shooting and his 10 fourth-quarter points were enough to get the job done.

Having done a solid job on LeBron James the night before in a loss to Cleveland, Graham drew the assignment of keeping Bryant in check and while a 36-point night doesn't sound like much of a job, those who witnessed it were extremely complimentary of Graham's efforts.

"I thought Joey did a great job," head coach Jay Triano said. "It's tough to say that when a guy gets 36 points but he was there all the time. There was nothing easy."

Triano though for the first time in weeks could actually say he was pleased with the full 48 minute effort he got from his charges.

"If we can put a stamp on that effort, we will win a lot of basketball games," Triano said. "We played hard tonight. We played hard right through."

With no Calderon to start the game, Triano went with his big lineup again but unlike the previous night in Cleveland, having his trio of Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and O'Neal on the floor to start the game was effective.

"I thought that big lineup was good," Triano said. "I think they are getting more familiar with it, with the spacing, but I have to find a way to keep my best five players on the floor and if that includes the three bigs I'm going to do it."

O'Neal was a defensive force last night with a season high nine blocks, including five in the third quarter which is a franchise high.

As for Calderon, the news wasn't all bad.

The night off was more a product of playing on back-to-back nights.

"We just felt we had to be cautious with him," Triano said.

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REPLAY

GETTING PHYSICAL

In the one-on-one battle featuring Kobe Bryant and Joey Graham, Bryant struck first catching Graham in the jaw with an elbow as he went to the hoop. No call. Midway through the second quarter Graham exacted some revenge knocking Bryant to deck but drawing the foul. Bryant did get up from that one favouring the dislocated ring finger on his right hand that he has been playing with.

FRUITFUL TIMEOUT

Coach Phil Jackson hates to waste his timeouts, but with his team struggling in the first quarter and down by 11, he made an exception. His Lakers came out and promptly hit four three's interrupted only by an Anthony Parker jumper. Three of the four three's came predictably from Bryant.

DIRECTING TRAFFIC

Jermaine O'Neal would make an imposing traffic cop. Last night on two occasions, he nodded in the direction he wanted Graham to go and when the small forward went, O'Neal fed him for an easy buckets.


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