7:30 PM ET, March 11, 2008
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Lakers have worked their way back to the top of the Western Conference. They'll be hard-pressed to stay there in the coming days.
Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 34 points in the final 8½ minutes, Lamar Odom added 20 points and nine rebounds, and the Lakers beat the Toronto Raptors 117-108 on Tuesday night for their 18th win in 22 games.
Recent memory has shown that Kobe Bryant has pounced on the Raptors at Staples Center. Here are Kobe's numbers in his last four home games against Toronto:
|Dec. '04||48||14-26||Averages: 48.5 PPG, 57.7 FG pct.|
Next comes a rugged four-game road trip starting Friday night in New Orleans, with games at Houston, Dallas and Utah to follow. The four teams have a cumulative record of 168-86 including 101-26 at home, and if the Rockets win games against Atlanta and Charlotte beforehand, they'll be shooting for their 22nd straight win against the Lakers on Sunday.
"It's going to be a tough one," Bryant said. "Those teams are great teams. In the East, you have a couple gimme games. In the West, you don't get those."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had a message for his players after their latest victory.
"I told them basically we aren't going to beat any of those teams if we play like we have played the last two or three games," he said.
Lakers forward Luke Walton said he's excited about the trip.
"It's time to have some fun and play some of the top teams in the NBA," he said. "There's going to be hostile environments, every possession is going to be crucial. That's a lot of fun for a player."
The Lakers went 15-of-32 from 3-point range for season highs in both categories -- a strange circumstance considering the Raptors aren't known for their interior defense.
"It's too many," Jackson said of the 32 attempts from beyond the arc. "This is a team, Toronto, that we think you have to do more scoring in the paint than from the outside."
Bryant also had seven rebounds and seven assists for the Pacific Division-leading Lakers (45-19), who lead the San Antonio Spurs by a half-game in the Western Conference race.
"We did an OK job defensively," Bryant said. "The first half is always an adjustment to get used to these type of teams the way they play. I think in the second half we did a much better job."
T.J. Ford scored all but four of his 28 points in the second half for the Raptors (34-29), who lost for the fifth time in seven games. Anthony Parker added 21 points, Rasho Nesterovic had 18 points and eight rebounds and Andrea Bargnani scored 15 for Toronto.
Raptors star Chris Bosh, averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, missed his sixth straight game with a sore right knee. Toronto has a 4-7 record without Bosh.
Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said his team made a conscious effort to keep the Lakers from getting the ball inside.
"You know Kobe gets to the free-throw line sometimes 20 times a game, and it's hard to beat a team when they shoot 35 free throws," Mitchell said. "I understand that you have to keep them out of the paint, and when you do that, you're going to give up the 3-point shots. We contested their 3-point shots well, but they made them tonight."
The Lakers were 12-of-15 from the foul line, and Bryant was 6-for-6 -- all in the final 3:37 of play.
Sasha Vujacic's 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining gave the Lakers a 97-86 lead -- largest of the game for either team to that point. The Raptors weren't closer than six points after that. Fisher's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left made it 113-104 and clinched the victory.
Odom scored 13 of his team's 25 points and Parker had 11 of his team's 25 in the third quarter, which ended with the Lakers leading 83-77.
A basket by Bryant and 3-pointers by Farmar and seldom-used Coby Karl gave the Lakers a 40-35 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way. Los Angeles shot 15-of-22 in the second quarter in outscoring the Raptors 36-27 for a 58-52 halftime lead.
The game was the second between the teams at Staples Center since Bryant scored a whopping 81 points in a 122-104 victory Jan. 22, 2006. It appeared he might be headed toward another huge game when he made three 3-pointers in the first five minutes.
Bryant had 13 points, three steals and four of his team's seven turnovers in the first quarter, which ended with the Raptors on top 25-22.
The Lakers committed only four turnovers in the final three periods, giving them a total of 11. ... The Lakers have scored 100 or more points in 18 of their last 20 games, but have allowed 100 or more in five of their last six. ... The game was the opener of a five-game road trip for the Raptors, who play at Golden State, Denver, Sacramento and Utah in the next six nights. They hope Bosh will be available at some point during the trip. ... The Lakers have won six straight against the Raptors at Staples Center. ... The Raptors have made at least one 3-pointer in a record 756 straight games dating to February 1999. ... Bryant was called for a flagrant foul against Kris Humphries in the second quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||41-89 (.461)||45-84 (.536)|
|3PM-3PA||7-16 (.438)||15-32 (.469)|
|FTM-FTA||19-22 (.864)||12-15 (.800)|
|Fast Break Points||7||2|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||17 (0/1)|