Kobe Does It Again: Hits Game-Winner In Final Seconds Against Raptors

Who else? Kobe Bryant hits a fadeaway jumper over two defenders with 1.9 seconds remaining as the Lakers snap a three-game slide. Bryant has made six final-minute game-winning baskets this season.

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Lakers and Raptors Fans React To Last Night's Thriller

The Lakers had been struggling recently. Most everyone in the basketball world was rightfully rolling their eyes at any talk of “crisis,” but still. It’s not normal for a team this good to lose three games in a row—in that way, any panic is really a compliment to the Lakers. With a normal team, the occasional losing streak is accepted and even expected; with the Lakers, they seem so invincible that an actual losing streak seems inconceivable.

And while the Lakers are clearly still working out some kinks—going 12 rounds with the Raptors seems beneath them—last night Kobe Bryant was good enough to get them back on track. From SB Nation’s Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll:

The Lakers may have been on a three-game losing streak, but they still employ Kobe Bryant and the Toronto Raptors do not. You can draw a pretty straight line between that observation and tonight’s outcome, a 109 to 107 Laker win that was discouraging and inspiring in almost equal measures. Discouraging, because Toronto was supposed to be an opponent the Lakers could easily handle, an Eastern Conference middleweight that’s won barely a third of its road games. But inspiring as well, because hey: Kobe Bryant!

Tonight’s selection from the Kobe Game-Winner Platinum Series took the form of a baseline fall-away over Antoine Wright with 1.9 seconds left. Yes, monsieur, that will do just fine! The shot put the Lakers up a deuce and, as the Raptors had no timeouts left, effectively sealed the win. What’s that, you say? Why did the Lakers need a dramatic end-game shot to snag a home victory from the Raptors?

If you must know: it’s because for most of the night, the Laker defense looked like the Raptor defense always looks. Which is to say, nauseating. Early on, the Lakers repeatedly failed to close on Toronto’s shooters, who made 7 of 10 threes in the first half. The perimeter D improved a bit and the Raps cooled off from outside, but in the third they got to the line in droves to keep the points flowing. Jarrett Jack had a great game, going pretty much wherever he wanted until the last few minutes, when Kobe was assigned to check him. Andrea Bargnani did plenty of damage rolling to the basket.

For more from the Lakers, check out Silver Screen and Roll’s full recap. As for the Raptors, they should be commended for keeping it close. Not only were they battling the most talented team in the league, but the refs weren’t helping. From SB Nation’s

There have been a few personal rules I’ve had since I’ve started writing at the HQ, and one of the primary ones has always been to try and stay away from criticizing the refs of the NBA too much. I don’t find it particularly interesting to keep on harping on them, and half the time, the team can always do something to negate the refs’ impact on a game.

That being said, it was a simple travesty what happened the other night at the Staples Center.

You can expect a lot of things as a fan of the NBA. You know that if the opposing team has one of the top players, they are going to get superstar calls. It’s part of the life of an NBA fan. There will be inconsistencies in games thanks to players and just what the refs manage to see over the course of a game.

However, last night, it was just outrageously blatant.

From phantom fouls charged to Raptors guarding Kobe Bryant, to a series of non-calls when the Raptors tried to take the ball inside or simply drive the ball along the three point arc, the Raptors were suddenly battling the refs as well as one of the strongest teams in the NBA. Players like Antoine Wright were getting called for establishing a vertical defense against Bryant, while others such as Chris Bosh found injustices on both sides of the floor.

Heck, even a fan managed to interfere with a ball going out of bounds as Jose Calderon reached out to save it. It was just that kind of night for our boys in red.

You can read the full rant here. Even so, the Raptors can take solace in the loss—they played them close throughout, made the Lakers look terrible on defense, and were in a position to win it or head to overtime at the end of regulation. Sure, they wound up losing, but that’s because Kobe’s game-winner happened. And let’s face it: Kobe game-winners happen to everyone…

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VIDEO: Kobe's Game-Winner Ends The Laker Losing Streak

As the announcer explained afterward, “the best closer in the game has done it again.” And with the score tied and the ball in Kobe’s hands, you just knew it was going to end this way:

Full game highlights can be found here.

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