The Lakers might not be as lucky if Bryant’s pinky is still bothering him against a Toronto Raptors team that has regularly frustrated them.
Los Angeles looks to extend its winning streak to five when it wraps up a seven-game road trip Sunday against the Raptors.
Bryant sprained the pinky finger on his right hand in the first quarter in Friday’s 93-81 win over Philadelphia but still played 36 minutes. He finished with nine points on 3 of 11 shooting, but said after the game he was fine and X-rays were negative.
With Bryant struggling to find his shot, the Lakers (20-7) stumbled into the fourth quarter trailing 62-58, before opening the final period on a 27-8 run to break open the game. It was the fourth straight win for Los Angeles since last Friday’s 88-84 loss to Chicago, the second stop of the trip.
“There’s got to be a point in the game where we assert ourselves,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Although Los Angeles beat Toronto for the sixth time in seven games, it again wasn’t easy. It was a back-and-forth game through three quarters and the Lakers struggled to put away the Raptors, who had a Los Angeles opponent season-high 58 points in the paint and a 49-31 rebounding advantage.
“They’re a very unorthodox team,” Bryant said of Toronto after the first meeting. “You’ve got rebounders coming in from all over the place. You’ve got the floor spread, and very athletic guys that are crashing and jumping, so it’s just their style of play.”
The Lakers should be used to receiving tough tests from Toronto, with the three games since the start of last season decided by a total of eight points. This includes the Raptors’ 106-105 victory Jan. 24, the last meeting at Air Canada Centre.
After sitting out Wednesday’s loss to Chicago with a sore left knee, Bargnani looked a little sluggish early against the Nets, missing 7 of his 11 first-half shots. He found his rhythm after halftime, however, connecting on 10 of 15 attempts to score 24 of his 32 points in the second half.
Calderon also returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a sore left foot, and finished with 15 points and 14 assists.
The Raptors are 7-3 when Bargnani has at least 20 points and Calderon has at least seven assists in the same game.
“You can see that we are a little bit of a different team with them (Bargnani, Calderon) on the floor and when Jose is controlling the game,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said.
Toronto won for just the second time in eight games Friday, and now tries to win two in a row for the first time since Dec. 1 and 3.