“Someone call the police, we just got robbed,” said the elder DeRozan but he wasn’t so much referring to Bryant’s clutch baseline jumper with seconds left in the fourth quarter. He was no doubt voicing his displeasure at a referee’s call that veteran Rasual Butler took too long to inbound the ball and call a timeout.
Instead of attempting a game-winning shot with 4.2 seconds left on the clock, Toronto lost possession and was forced to foul. Luckily, Bryant missed one of two foul shots and the Raptors still had time left to tie or win the game.
This time the ball was put in play, but DeRozan’s desperation attempt hit air and wasn’t even close. Suddenly, the game ended with a thud as Raptors players and as non-Lakers fans went from high to low and left the Air Canada Centre dejected.
Following the game, Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey refused to comment on the referee’s controversial call and risking a fine from the NBA. But he did explain his reasoning for entrusting Butler to inbound who was glued to the bench up until that point.
“I like my money. With the little money I make, I like it, so I’m not going to comment on it. We’ll send it to the league and let them review it. It’s a tough call. We’re all calling timeout and Mr. (Scott) Foster saw it different so that’s his prerogative.”
“What teams normally do is put their longest guy on the ball and that is why we put Rasual up there. He’s our best inbound passer. He sees the situation and he is a veteran player.”
Butler thought he had called timeout in time and like his coach was frustrated with how the game ended.
“Disappointed obviously, you always want your team to get a shot to win a game,” said Butler. “I knew what my reads were. They put (Pau) Gasol on the ball and the first look was a look to the rim, which was tough to get over his length. I took my other two reads and when they weren’t open I called a timeout. I thought I called it in enough time.
“I asked him to count loud for me and he did. I heard four, I turned to call a timeout and he felt it was five seconds.”
In regards to the five-second call, Bryant shrugged off any notion of a controversy.
“I wasn’t surprised because it was five seconds. I didn’t go to college but I can count. It was five seconds, good defence on our part.”
Despite the forgettable first quarter where Toronto was outscored 34-19, the team clawed back to turn a potential blowout into a close entertaining game while the Lakers struggled in the final three quarters. Jose Calderon once again shined and perhaps played his best game in a Raptors uniform scoring a career and game-high 30 points while also adding six assists and two rebounds. He finished 13-for-18 and a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
“It doesn't matter, we lost so I don't care," said Calderon when asked about his stellar play of late. “It's tough every time you lose…we had a chance to beat another great team like L.A. but we couldn't today so we've got to always grab the positive part. We can compete against everybody, we've got to believe we can do it.”
DeRozan did not have a great offensive night shooting just 2-for-13 but did tie a career-high seven assists. Off the bench, Linas Kleiza had 15 points while Leandro Barbosa added 12.
Despite the game being decided in the final seconds, Casey preferred to place focus on his team’s slow first quarter start that put the Raptors in a big hole early.
“It’s always tough when you lose a close game like that when you’ve dug yourself out of a hole,” said Casey. “I told them I was disappointed in the hole we dug and I was very proud of them how they dug themselves out and put themselves in position to win the game.
“Two great efforts against two of the top teams in the league and without our full roster. That’s not an excuse but it’s true. But everybody that stepped on the floor tonight competed, gave their hearts, battled.”
Bryant finished with a rather ordinary 27 points and was ho-hum about his heroics after the game.
“I just noticed a spot on the baseline side,” said Bryant. “Everything was set for me to catch it down there because I knew I could catch and shoot. At the top of the floor they would key on me and follow me to the basket. Once I noticed that space open it was just a matter of me trying to shake DeRozan to get to the spot.”
Pau Gasol hauled down a game-high 17 rebounds to go along with his 16 points and six assists while Andrew Bynum added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Although Bryant had an average game by his standards, he still came through in the final minutes when the game mattered most, which has become his trademark during his career.
“The bottom line is Kobe’s two shots at the end of the game, the three was big for us and obviously the shot that he took along the baseline, that’s who he is,” said Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown.
“If we are in a one-point game or a two-point game, the ball is going to be in his hands and we are going to expect him to make a play and he did that tonight.”
Toronto will continue its seven-game home stand on Tuesday night when it will host the New York Knicks and welcome NBA sensation Jeremy Lin and Lin-sanity to the ACC. The point guard has been a surprising revelation for the Knicks leading his team to five straight victories without Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup. Lin was originally cut from the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets roster in December before being picked up on waivers by New York.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times