The Los Angeles Lakers won an absolute thriller in overtime Friday night over the Toronto Raptors 118-116.
Thanks to a late game 3-pointer, the Utah Jazz lost in Chicago earlier in the night. As such, the Lakers could have ended the night within half a game of the eighth and final playoff seed. So the Lakers came out with a purpose, right?
No, the Lakers stumbled through the first quarter. The defense was sloppy at best and non-existent at worst. Toronto shot 74 percent from the field to start the game, and the Lakers trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half.
In the first quarter, Kobe Bryant was a major offender with five turnovers to start the game. Sure, he also had six points and six assists in the opening period, but that is not the type of triple-double pace the Lakers wanted.
However, the Lakers finished the half with a flurry and climbed to within six points.
That would not last long, as the Lakers were once again down double digits in the third quarter. In the third period, the Lakers fell in love with the three-ball, and that worked initially when Steve Nash was making shots, but eventually, percentages caught up to the Lakers.
Down by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers turned it up offensively, but the Raptors kept scoring.
This was not exactly an 18-point comeback, but the Lakers trailed less than six minutes into the game and did not tie the game until there were only 5.5 seconds left on the clock.
For the umpteenth time, Bryant was exceptional late in the game. He drew fouls and got to the free throw line time and again. In the fourth quarter, Bryant went six of six from the foul line. When the Raptors tired of Bryant’s free throws, they opted to try the Hack-a-Howard. That didn’t work, either.
Then, Kobe really went to work, but unlike the Hornets game, the Lakers were unable to get stops, and their defensive rotations were slow.
That changed with two minutes remaining in the ball game. Howard recorded his fourth block of the contest, and that rejection led to a Kobe-three. For the remainder of the regulation, Kobe-threes would be a running motif.
Bryant hit a trio of 3-pointers that culminated with a game-tying shot with 5.5 seconds remaining.
In overtime, the Lakers experienced their first lead since the first quarter at 110-109, but they quickly relinquished it to start yet another nail-biting comeback.
This time, Nash hit the big three to tie the game at 115.
After a defensive stop, Kobe threw down a two-handed slam to give the Lakers a 117-115 led with 10.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
The Lakers were promptly beaten off the dribble and fouled Alan Anderson. Anderson missed the second free throw and Bryant recovered the ball. They would continue to make it interesting with a missed free throw, but they survived.
The Lakers end Friday night at 32-31 on the season—above .500 for the first time since they were 6-5. Even more importantly, they are only half a game back of the playoffs.
The Lakers put together one heck of a Hollywood ending on Friday night, but will they get their Hollywood ending at the end of the season?