The Lakers should feel pretty good about themselves on their long flight home, as they finished up a seven-game road trip with a 6-1 record, after a 120-110 win over the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.
Kobe Bryant, playing with a sprained pinkie on his shooting hand, scored 20 points in only 28 minutes, as the Lakers used the bench for big minutes on this day. Pau Gasol scored 19 to go along with 8 rebounds in just over 30 minutes of action.
In fact the Lakers’ bench outscored the Raptors’ bench 57-27, led by Andrew Bynum’s 16 points and seven rebounds, easily his best game since his return on Tuesday. Shannon scored 14 points, Matt Barnes had 12, and even seldom-used Luke Walton scored a season-high nine points. The Lakers bench also hit 6-12 from the three-point line.
It was a game the Lakers had control of by the middle of the second quarter, yet they never could quite put the Raptors away, despite having as much as a 16-point lead at 68-52, early in the third quarter. The injury-depleted Raptors continued to make a game of it, but never were able to get any closer than six points in the second half.
Linas Kleiza led all scorers with 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds for the Raptors. Former USC star DeMar DeRozan had a brilliant third quarter with 19 points, and scored 23 for the game, including 11-11 from the foul line. Jose Calderon chipped with in a double-double, scoring 20 points and dishing out 12 assists.
For the game, the Lakers shot 51.9% (41-79) from the floor and outrebounded Toronto 46-35. The Lakers also went to the foul line 39 times, making 31 of them for 79.5%. But it really was the bench that did most of the damage on this day, as their play continued to keep the Lakers safely ahead when the Raptors would make runs to get back in the game.
It is not uncommon for Phil Jackson to play his bench big minutes on the last game of a long a road trip, and with the Lakers’ depth this year, it makes it an even easier decision for the coaching staff.
The Lakers have now beaten their last four opponent by at least 10 points, and have won five in a row, their longest winning streak since starting the season 8-0. They’re now 11-5 on the road.
The champs return home for two games this week, Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, and of course the game of the year in the NBA, Christmas Day against the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat. The Lakers also play seven of their next 10 at the friendly confines of Staples Center.