Lessons from L.A.

MIKE GANTER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 PM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There are no moral victories in professional sports.

This must be true because almost a half-dozen Raptors said as much following their 109-107 defeat at the hands of yet another Kobe Bryant buzzer-beater in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Antoine Wright, DeMar DeRozan, and even head coach Jay Triano all laid waste to the “moral victory” suggestion in the aftermath of what had to be a bit of a heartbreaking loss to the defending NBA champs.

But just because they say it, doesn’t make it so.

All due respect to each of the individuals, did anyone really expect, honestly think, they were going to come into LA and steal a win? I mean, consider the circumstances.

The Lakers were coming off a three-game losing skid. Their franchise player, who arguably — and it’s an easy argument to make — is the best clutch performer in the game today, was being chastised by mere mortals such as Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for not sharing the ball enough.

Now I don’t pretend to know Kobe Bryant any more than Joe Sportsfan does, but even from a distance, I can say with some degree of accuracy that type of attack is only going to make him more dangerous, not less. If the three-game losing skid the Lakers brought back to the Staples Center on Tuesday didn’t already have him hyped up and motivated enough, that kind of disrespect from the cheaper seats within his own locker room had to get his attention, no?

And it’s not like the Raptors arrived in Los Angeles operating at peak capacity. Bosh, their franchise guy, was easing his way back into playing condition after a seven-game absence. Hedo Turkoglu had been in and out of the lineup because of a bad ankle and had not been able to practice much.

So, yeah, we get it. The pros can’t appear to be settling for anything less than accomplishing the ultimate goal and that’s always the win.

But what they can’t say, we will. A regular-season loss, particularly one to a very good, not to mention very motivated opponent on their home court, can be a positive.

Here’s why:

The Raptors arrived in Los Angeles as a team trying to get back on track. They weren’t quite the defensively challenged outfit they had been in late November and early December, but they were approaching it. Even the offence, a given with as many ways as this team has to score, was off kilter. It has been for about three weeks.

So what did that loss on Tuesday accomplish other than to further cement Bryant’s reputation as the clutch player in the league?

It got the Raptors back on track. They left L.A. a better team than they arrived.

Even after their denials of a moral victory, all of the previously mentioned Raptors admitted some gains from the game.

This from Triano.

“We look at the fact that we held them to what, 44 or 45% shooting,” Triano said. “That’s back to where we need to be if we are going to be efficient for the final 20 games.”

Or this from Bosh: “I think we made some strides today ... All in all they shot 44%. They are a good team. If we can hold other teams to 44%, I think we’re going to have success.”

Leave it to Wright, one of the better analysts of the game in the Raptors locker room, to sum it all up just right.

“If we play like this we are gonna win a lot of games,” Wright said.

“That’s what we can take from it. But we also have to understand that playing hard in this game is not going to beat (Sacramento on Wednesday).

“No excuse for us not to come out (Wednesday) and play with the same intensity.”

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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