Bryant rises above Raptors, leads Lakers to OT win

Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant brought the Los Angeles Lakers back on Friday night with his shot.
And he lifted them above the Toronto Raptors with some lift.
Bryant had a drive-and-dunk into a wide-open Toronto defense with just less than 11 seconds left to carry the Los Angeles Lakers to a 118-116 overtime win over the Raptors on Friday night at Staples Center.
Spotting a surprisingly soft defense and matched up against a hard-charging Aaron Gray as the seconds ticked off, Bryant bided his time, paused to set himself up and jetted toward the rim to put the Lakers up. 117-115.
"I knew Gray is not the fastest guy in the world, I just had to wait for him to come close enough to me," Bryant said. "Once I got by him, I saw daylight and I took off."
Daylight -- and any playoff hopes -- was quickly slipping away from the Lakers early in the game.
With Western Conference No. 8 seed Utah losing earlier in the evening, Friday amounted to a must-win for the Lakers.
But no one told Toronto.
The Raptors shot 74 percent in the first quarter, including 8-for-9 inside the paint, as they built a 37-25 lead after a 22-10 run. Los Angeles clawed back to take a small third-quarter lead, but Toronto seized control once more and built the lead into double-digits.
Bryant hoisted the Lakers onto his shoulders, however, taking over late to lead Los Angeles above .500 for the first time since November.
Bryant had 30 points in the second half and overtime, draining three 3-pointers down the stretch to keep Los Angeles in contention.
Bryant had 41 points just two days after lighting up New Orleans for 42 in a huge comeback win, hitting 11 of 22 shots, 5 of 10 3-pointers and making 14 of 16 from the free-throw line. Bryant also added 12 assists and six rebounds, but had nine turnovers.
"We really just had to push through," Bryant said. "This was tough, man. I was just completely irresponsible with the basketball all night long, and I wanted to get in position so I could redeem myself. "
Added Toronto's DeMar DeRozan: "We were just trying to get the ball out of his hands. Try to get someone else heated up. He hit some tough shots. We threw out a couple coverages, and they took advantage of it."
Bryant got a boost from Dwight Howard, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds. Steve Nash added 22 points for Los Angeles. Antawn Jamison had nine points and eight rebounds to lead the Lakers bench, which was outscored by the Raptors, 42-20.
"Playing in games like this is great fun," Howard said. "We're trying to get better, and Toronto's tough. We could've just stopped playing, but we know what we want to do, we know what we're trying to accomplish as a team and we just stuck together."
DeRozan had 28 points, five assists and five rebounds to lead six Raptors in double-figures. Rudy Gay had 17 points -- albeit on 7-for-26 shooting -- and seven rebounds, and Alan Anderson added 17 points off the bench for the Raptors, who lost their 10th straight in Los Angeles.
"Kobe put us on his shoulders and carried us to victory tonight," Jamison said. "You're never surprised. Down three, he had the ball, and he took the shot, and he makes it look so effortless. Two guys in his face, falling back, clean shot, nothing but net.
"I've dealt with this guy for 14 years, and I feel like I deserved one year with him as a teammate."
NOTES: Bryant was bothered by an ulnar nerve contusion in his right arm but played through it. Howard (shoulder) and Metta World Peace (sprained right ankle) also played through injuries. Pau Gasol (torn plantar fascia) and Jordan Hill (hip) remain out. ... Toronto won the first matchup this year between the two teams, 108-103, on Jan. 20 at the Air Canada Centre. ... The Lakers entered the game with a nine-game home winning streak over Toronto. ... Los Angeles' 25-point comeback against the New Orleans Hornets on March 6 was the biggest for the Lakers in more than 10 years. ... Nash, who eclipsed Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time assist list earlier in the season, trails Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson by less than 150 assists and has a chance to pass him by the end of the season. ... The Raptors have just one remaining game against a Western Conference opponent.

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