Notebook: Lakers 118, Raptors 116 (OT)

Posted Mar 9, 2013 2:42 AM

Dan Arritt, for

THE FACTS: Just when it appeared the 17th NBA season for Kobe Bryant might hit a plateau, he took it to another level Friday night. Bryant willed the Lakers back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, hitting three difficult 3-pointers in the final minutes of regulation and then scoring four points in overtime to lift L.A. to a 118-116 victory over the shell-shocked Raptors at Staples Center.

QUOTABLE: "He has been unbelievable and milking him has been a beautiful thing."
-- Lakers' Steve Nash on Bryant

THE STAT: Before this week, Bryant had never had a game with at least 40 points and 12 assists. Now he has accomplished that feat in two straight games, leading the Lakers back from double-digit deficits late in both. After producing 42 points and 12 assists in a victory Wednesday in New Orleans, he came back with 41 points, 12 assists and six rebounds against the Raptors. Bryant is the first member of the Lakers to record consecutive games of 40 points and 10 assists since Jerry West in 1970.

TURNING POINT: After erasing a deficit that ballooned as large as 15 points, the game extended into overtime after Toronto forward Rudy Gay missed a pull-up 18-footer at the buzzer. Toronto jumped out to a three-point lead in overtime, but Nash got L.A. even with a rare 3-pointer off the dribble with 45 seconds remaining. After another miss by Gay, Bryant dribbled around and through what seemed like the entire Toronto defense and threw down a two-handed slam for a two-point lead with 10 seconds left. Alan Anderson was then fouled, but missed the second free throw. Nash, the all-time most efficient free throw shooter in NBA history, missed the first of two free throws with six seconds left. He made the second, pushing the lead back to two. Gay then missed another golden opportunity, clanking his 16-footer off the rim as time expired.

HOT: Nobody's hotter than Bryant, and that's just his determination to make the playoffs boiling over. After shooting 14-for-21 against the Hornets, he was 11-for-22 against the Raptors, matching his season high with five 3-pointers on 10 attempts. The only black mark was his nine turnovers, which was one less than his season high. Lakers center Dwight Howard also stepped up with an All Star-like performance, producing 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking five shots. Then there was Nash, who scored a season-high 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, converting 4-for-6 from 3-point range along the way. His only head-scratching stat was his two assists, which came after he recorded just one against New Orleans. Bryant helped make up for those shortcomings, however.

NOT: Some were surprised when the Grizzlies cut ties with Gay at last month's trade deadline, but he showed his flaws against the Lakers. Gay shot 2-for-15 in the second half and overtime, missing a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and tie at the end of overtime. He finished 7-for-26 with 17 points and also committed six turnovers along the way. Metta World Peace and Earl Clark gave the Lakers practically nothing at the starting forward position, combining to shoot 4-for-15 and score 11 points. No wonder the Lakers went with a three-guard lineup down the stretch.

GOOD MOVE: On the overtime dunk by Bryant that gave the Lakers the lead for good, Howard used a veteran move to clear space in the lane for Bryant, inconspicuously grabbing Gay's jersey from behind to keep him from moving into the key to contest the shot. It also helped that Toronto center Amir Johnson had fouled out with 2:20 remaining in overtime.

QUOTABLE II: "Once I got by [Toronto backup center Aaron Gray] I saw daylight and just took off."
-- Kobe Bryant on his late dunk

BAD MOVE: With the Raptors leading by three points with eight seconds left in regulation, the wise move would have been to foul whoever caught the ball off the inbounds pass and force the Lakers to shoot two free throws. Instead, the Raptors let Bryant catch the ball beyond the arc. Two defenders rushed at Bryant, but he pump faked just enough to let one fly by, then rose in the air and swished perhaps the biggest shot of the season for L.A.

QUOTABLE III: "We were supposed to foul, we had constructed a foul. Two guys froze."
-- Toronto coach Dwane Casey

NOTABLE: The Lakers moved within a half game of the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot. They also moved a game above .500 for the first time since they were 6-5 on Nov. 20. ... Bryant has scored at least 20 points in 14 straight games against the Raptors. The streak began with his 81-point effort in January 2006.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Sunday vs Chicago, Tuesday @ Orlando, Wednesday @ Atlanta. For the Raptors, Sunday vs. Cleveland, Wednesday @ Boston, Friday vs. Charlotte.