Rapid Reaction: Raptors 106, Lakers 94
December, 8, 2013
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant is back on the court, but his game still has some work to do to join him there.
After Bryant was introduced to a raucous standing ovation at Staples Center with "Imperial March" from "Star Wars" blaring over the public address system, the force wasn't always with him.
Things started off well enough when he found Robert Sacre with a crisp pass inside for an assist on the Lakers' first possession, but his first shot was a baby hook from 6 feet that ended up as an airball.
It typified the uneven night Bryant had, in which he racked up nearly as many turnovers (eight) as points (nine on 2-for-9 shooting), yet he still found ways to make positive contributions (8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 28 minutes).
For a Los Angeles Lakers team that managed to go 10-9 without him, there were times the group looked lost, scoring just 94 points after putting up 100 or more in seven of their past eight games.
The loss can't be hung solely on Bryant, but his night will certainly be scrutinized after the Lakers came into the game winners of six of their past eight games and walked away with a loss to a now 7-12 Toronto Raptors team that traded away its leading scorer in Rudy Gay just hours before tipoff.
The unknown is over, however. Now, the Lakers try to see what life with Bryant can be all over again.
How it happened: With Bryant on the bench to close the third quarter, L.A. used a 10-1 run to cut Toronto's once 14-point lead down to five heading into the fourth. Bryant started the fourth on the bench and checked back in with just less than seven minutes left and L.A. down by seven. From there, Bryant's presence alone wasn't enough to close out the game. He made two free throws to cut the Raptors' lead to four but missed a fallaway jumper on the next possession after the Raptors had pushed it back to six. Then, the lead ballooned back to 10 off two free throws from DeMar DeRozan and a layup by Kyle Lowry. L.A. never made it a game after that.
What it means: "There will be a little bit of a sorting-out process now and find out what we need to adjust and how he needs to adjust to the team, and vice versa, and go from there," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game.
Sunday certainly proved that. This is going to take some time.
Hits: Nick Young scored 19 points to lead L.A.
Xavier Henry scored 17 on 6-for-8 shooting. Jodie Meeks scored 14 in his first bench assignment after relinquishing his spot back to Bryant.
Misses: There was a sequence in the fourth quarter in which Young airballed a 360-degree layup that could have cut Toronto's lead to five. The Raptors pushed the ball up the court for a Terrence Ross 3-pointer to push their cushion to 10 with 9:06 to go. Big sequence.
Pau Gasol shot just 3-for-11.
Stat of the game: The Lakers' starters shot a combined 8-for-32. The bench was 26-for-47.
Up next: L.A. hosts the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday before embarking on a four-game road trip starting Friday in Oklahoma City.