TORONTO - Dylan Thomas would have been proud of the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon, though the Welsh poet died 42 years before the Raptors were born and probably didn’t give hoops a lot of, uh, sober reflection.
Still, in acknowledgement of Thomas’ most famous poem, the Raptors did not go gentle into that good night as they faced a stacked Los Angeles Lakers squad with an arm tied behind their back.
Andrea Bargnani was out again with a sore knee, as was Sonny Weems with back spasms. Amir Johnson played, and played well, but left the game a couple of times to get his sore lower back stretched out.
Still, the Raptors fought back time and again against the explosive Lakers, promoting L.A. coach Phil Jackson to dish some love Jay Triano’s way.
“Jay had a lot of things going,” said Jackson, following the Lakers’ 120-110 victory. “We’d get going and he’d throw a zone out there to slow us down. They did some things to create a conflict for us.
“We established control four times in the game,” Jackson continued, “and they were trying to come back even at the end of the game by hitting a couple of threes. They kept fighting in there.”
The Raptors fell behind by eight at the half (57-49) and then by 16 early in the third, but fought back to within five four minutes later.
Toronto then found themselves behind by 15 early in the fourth and clawed back to get within six four minutes after that on a Linas Kleiza three-pointer, with 6:28 left in the game. Again the Lakers went on a roll, pushing that lead up to 12 with three minutes remaining and the Raps cut that to 114-107 on Kleiza five foot fade away shot.
Jackson hated the action
The L.A. bench outscored Toronto’s 57-27 and Jackson was not impressed with his starters. Only Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom played more than 30 minutes. Superstar Kobe Bryant was held to a reasonable 20 points.
The Raptors charged to a 34-28 lead in the first quarter, mainly against the Lakers’ big five — Bryant, Gasol, Ron Artest, Odom and Derek Fisher. L.A. also committed six turnovers in the opening 12 minutes.
“They had a lot of turnovers in the first quarter, they gave up 34 points. That’s a start right there,” Jackson said. “Seven offensive rebounds. That’s a terrible first quarter.”
After the Raptors went on a 16-5 run in the third, Jackson substituted Bryant, Artest and Odom with about five minutes left.
“They weren’t playing well,” he said. “They took early shots against a zone and played against the principles of what we wanted to do.”
They love L.A.
A couple of the Raptors youngsters, born in bred in L.A., had good games against their hometown team. Johnson finished with 14 points, six rebounds, two steals and four assists, despite a sore back, while DeMar DeRozan had 23 points while guarding Bryant, 19 in the third quarter.
“I love DeMar,” Bryant said. “I have known him for a long time, obviously with him coming to my camps and things like that. He has continued to work on his game, continued to work on his jump shot and I think he will be fine.”
Wild and weird stuff
Though he didn’t have his best game, probably because he has a sore pinky finger, Bryant still made some tremendous plays and it’s true what they say about the basketball gods smiling on the best players. Bryant launched a 23-foot jump shot early in the third quarter, which bounced off the rim, bounced off the top of the backboard twice, before dropping in to give L.A. a 70-55 lead ... Gary Schmidt, the director of pro scouting for the Memphis Grizzles, was at his second straight Raptors game, prompting whispers that perhaps a trade is in the offing. Who knows, maybe the Raptors are thinking about acquiring 7-foot-3 washout Hasheem Thabett, the second overall choice in 2009 ... The ACC faithful and the Raptors coaching staff were not amused with some of the calls during the game. There seemed to be quite a few of reputation calls that went the Lakers’ way.