The Lakers didn't exactly come out focused and ready in Toronto on Wednesday, and with their next game being a showdown with the Celtics in Boston the very next night, it's hard to blame them. But they did what they had to do late, and outscored the Raptors by 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 115-107 victory.
Kobe Bryant finished with 36 points, but he had to work pretty hard for them. Toronto's Joey Graham defended him well, and Kobe made a lot of tough shots, hitting on just 13 of his 28 attempts from the field. Pau Gasol scored 31, and also hauled down 15 rebounds.
This was a close game throughout, with the Raptors leading by no more than eight and the Lakers' biggest lead not coming until they were up by four with just under six minutes to play. It might have been too close actually, considering the fact that Chris Bosh left early in the fourth quarter with a sprained knee, and Jose Calderon sat out the game with a sore hamstring.
Toronto's Jermaine O'Neal picked up the slack on the defensive end, and had a monster game there with nine blocked shots. And with the way the Lakers were running their offense down the stretch, they were making things more difficult on themselves than perhaps they needed to be.
With under four minutes to play, six of the next seven Lakers' possessions were basically isolation plays for Kobe, where he dribbled down the clock and forced up a series of tough shots. Sure he scored on three of them; he's Kobe Bryant. But this is against the Toronto Raptors, and his 61 point performance came against the New York Knicks. Neither of these teams present the defensive challenges that the Celtics will on Thursday, and it might not have been a bad idea to get the team prepared offensively for Boston.
Still, a win's a win, and that's four straight for the Lakers. It's not quite the 12-in-a-row streak that the Celtics are riding at the moment, but all we need to do is look back to Christmas Day to see what the Lakers do to the Celtics when they're on a winning streak that's gone on for just a little bit too long.