Raptors 102 – LA Lakers 93: Kobe waves farewell to Toronto


Toronto fans got their opportunity to applaud Kobe one last time, in a game that felt like an exhibition.

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers by nine last night at the Air Canada Centre. The game’s result was secondary to the back story, namely, Kobe Bryant’s final trip to Toronto as a player. Having announced his retirement, which commences at season’s end, Kobe is enjoying a victory lap around the NBA. His team fell to a sad 3-18, so there’s going to be no playoff drama from the man with five championship rings.

Raptors fans are accustomed to booing opposing players, but on this night there was nothing but love for the Lakers superstar shooting guard. His team put up a stout battle, and Kobe led their scoring with 21 points, but they finally faded away in the fourth quarter. Lakers coach Byron Scott seems determined to show his young players what a tough guy he is. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, Laker stars of the future, didn’t play in crunch time. The whole team is content with playing second fiddle to The Kobe Farewell Show.

Under normal circumstances, the Raptors would get a spanking for their tentative play and poor shooting, but our team was severely handicapped. DeMarre Carroll will be sidelined indefinitely with a contusion on his knee, and Lucas Nogueira has a sprained ankle. While Terrence Ross stepped into Carroll’s starting spot and scored a pleasantly surprising 22 points, the news was less positive at centre. Bismack Biyombo enjoyed perhaps his finest game as a Raptor, scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. However, without Nogueira to spell him, and with no protection from Patrick Patterson (one basket and two boards), the Raptors were forced to play a lot of one-and-done when Biz sat down. Toronto was badly out-rebounded, particularly on the offensive glass.

Dec 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) dribbles against Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Lakers 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately, Kyle Lowry was on hand to once again provide the spark needed. He drained five long balls on his way to a game-high 27 points. Cory Joseph, who is getting more minutes than several starters, chipped in with 14. He’s getting to the free throw line more frequently these days. DeMar DeRozan continues to look lost when faced with any lengthy shot, but penetrated nicely and dished 7 assists.

The power forward spot is a wasteland at the moment. Luis Scola managed two lonely free throws. One has to wonder if coach Dwane Casey will dust off Anthony Bennett, throw him on the floor, and hope for the best. With a bench shorter than it’s ever been, Norman Powell saw a few minutes of action, and James Johnson played almost 17.

TRoss scored 13 points in Q1, and there was hope he would offer another magical game like his 51-pointer a few years ago. Alas, no, as he was neglected time and again by his mates on offense. If his shooting from distance holds up, he’ll need to have his number called more often.

Next: Coach, shake up the Power Forward spot

The Raptors managed to win a game they nearly fumbled away. Tomorrow night, when they face the San Antonio Spurs, which has no retiring rock star distractions, the shot-making better be on hand.