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Poor defense a negative in Lakers' 106-105 loss to Toronto Raptors

January 25, 2010 |  6:00 am

Kobe Bryant #6

The numbers don't seem to add up.

The Lakers scored 56 points in the paint and 19 second-chance points, led by Pau Gasol's 22 points and Andrew Bynum's 21 points. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant provided arguably his most well-rounded game, recording a near triple-double with 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists. And Lakers backup guard Jordan Farmar provided energy off the bench with 17 points, including a three-of-four clip from three-point range. 

Those kind of statistics, including a 51-39 rebounding advantage, would seem to have been all it took for a victory: The Lakers had an inside game in Bynum and Gasol, a leader in Bryant and bench support in Farmar. 

When you look at the Lakers' performance on defense, however, the reasons for Sunday's 106-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors become clear. And you can't just chalk it up to the teams' free-throw discrepancy, with Toronto finishing 21 of 26 from the line and the Lakers going nine of nine from the stripe. That's a statistic that will likely fuel grumbling about the officiating -- in particular the call against Pau Gasol, who was whistled for fouling  Hedo Turkoglu in the final seconds. That call ultimately set up Turkoglu's game-clinching free throws. But the Lakers had lapses on defense that should prompt concerns even if they had walked away Sunday with a win.

For all the balance the Lakers had, it paled in comparison to what Toronto provided. While four Lakers players scored in double digits, the Raptors had six players reach that feat. That included Andrea Bargnani's 22 points (14 in the second half), a double double from Chris Bosh (18 points and 13 rebounds) Jarrett Jack's 18 points, Marco Belinelli's 15 points and DeMar DeRozan's 10 points. 

This shouldn't have been a surprise since Toronto entered Sunday's contest averaging 103.6 points per game, fifth best in the NBA. Yet, Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons told KCAL9's John Ireland at halftime that the Lakers only held a 56-54 lead because of the team's tendency to "feel the other team out" on defense when it's facing an opponent for the first time. 

It appeared numerous times that the Lakers could run away with a large lead. They had a 14-5 advantage with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter, but Toronto fought back through the rest of the period, trailing only 24-21. The Lakers built a 48-40 lead with 3:31 remaining in the first half, but the Raptors cut the lead by halftime to 56-54. 

The Lakers stormed out of the second half with a 7-0 run for a 63-54 cushion, prompting Toronto to call timeout with 9:18 left in the third quarter. By the end of the period, the Lakers only led 84-82. 

Although the fourth quarter presented two ties and five lead changes, the Lakers appeared on their way to victory after Kobe Bryant's 13-foot jumper gave them a 105-101 lead with 1:46 remaining. But the Raptors scored five unanswered points the rest of the way.  

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives past Raptors forward DeMar DoRozan in the first half Sunday. Credit: Warren Toda / EPA