“It was kind of a flat game for a rainy day,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who popped in the locker room before the game to see who was still missing.
Heavy rain, accompanied by rare lightning and thunder, flooded freeways, snarled traffic and delayed O’Neal and Payton until 30 minutes before tipoff. Derek Fisher beat them by 15 minutes.
“I didn’t think the floods had hit yet,” Jackson said, smiling. “I know the apocalypse is around the corner, but maybe not tonight.”
The Lakers got 17 points from Karl Malone and 16 points from Payton to end their two-game losing streak. Toronto fell to 0-4 away from home under first-year coach Kevin O’Neill.
After committing a season-high 23 turnovers in losing to Memphis on Monday night, the Lakers held their miscues to 11.
“We just got a little discombobulated in Memphis,” said Payton, who downplayed any dispute with Jackson about playing a season-low 27 minutes Monday.
“I don’t worry about that. Phil thought my ankle was bothering me, so he didn’t want me to chance it. That’s what it was all about.”
Kobe Bryant scored 19 points, going 8-of-10 on free throws, as one of four Lakers starters in double figures. He will leave the Lakers on Thursday to attend his first hearing before the judge that will preside over his sexual assault trial in Colorado.
“It’s one of these victories where we just kind of coasted,” said Bryant, who expects to return in time for practice Thursday afternoon. “We’re going to get much, much better.”
“You just have to guard them,” Carter said of the Lakers. “They can deserve all the respect in the world, but if you back down from them, they’ll blow you out of the gym.”
The Lakers led by 10 points at halftime. Malone, Payton, Devean George and O’Neal scored on the Lakers’ first four possessions of the third quarter while denying Toronto on its first four trips down the floor. O’Neal and Payton chipped in consecutive baskets for a 65-45 lead with 8:12 remaining.
The Lakers’ defense briefly let up, letting the Raptors score nine unanswered points to get to 65-54. After Malone and Payton missed on the same possession, Bryant came down the next time and hit a 3-pointer that kept Toronto’s deficit in double-digits.
“You’ve got four guys there who could be go-to guys on any given night,” Toronto’s Jerome Williams said. “We couldn’t do anything with them after they made their run. They just have a great, disciplined team.”
The Raptors trailed 74-60 heading into the fourth quarter. O’Neal returned seven minutes in when the Lakers were ahead 80-67.
“We just wanted to get Shaq going, get the ball to him inside and make them foul and make them get back on their heels,” Malone said. “When we do that, we are a very good team.”
Morris Peterson hit a 3-pointer that got Toronto to 86-77 with four minutes left. But Bryant hit two free throws, and Malone and Payton scored to push the Lakers’ lead to 92-77.
Peterson added 16 points and Lamond Murray had 15.
Malone strained his left hamstring in the third quarter and did not return. … Payton said it took him 2 1/2 hours to drive to the game from his San Fernando Valley home. “That traffic is crazy out here,” he said. … The Raptors were 1-13 vs. Western Conference opponents last season. … The Lakers extended their regular-season home winning streak to 18 games, their longest since they moved to Staples Center in 1999. … Toronto is 0-3 in back-to-back games. … Ashton Kutcher sat courtside without his girlfriend, Demi Moore, and Pauletta Washington attended without her husband Denzel. Los Angeles Dodgersreliever Eric Gagne, Don Rickles and singer Seal also were there.