By Craig Kwasniewski
The game wasn't pretty... the game wasn't inspiring... the game really wasn't memorable... but it was yet another game saved by the heroics of #24 with a sick game-winning jumper from the corner with 2 seconds left. (A looong two in the corner with two defenders rushing him. Impressive in the sense that EVERYONE knew Kobe was going to take the shot and he still created enough space to hit a difficult jumper.)
But that's the thing, how do I categorize a sub-par effort at home against an inferior opponent? The Lakers DID find a way to grind out a W with their confidence fading over the past 4 games. The DID pull together defensively just in time down the stretch to set up for Kobe to do what he does best. Kobe DID work the refs all game, eventually wearing them down late, giving the Lakers the benefit of a few late calls (BTW - a very savvy veteran move). Maybe this was the type of gritty win that only a team with championship experience can pull off. The "how did they pull that one out?" type of victory that the early 00's Lakers seemed to crank out on a regular basis. Of course instead of a sick Kobe fade, they got the game winner from a Robert Horry three... obviously.
HOWEVER... this Lakers team continues to have trouble realizing that they are being chased. They are no longer pursuing the Celtics, Spurs or Cavs, they ARE being pursued. Teams will continue to bring their A-game, looking to size themselves up to the defending champs. This is why continually average journeyman players like say Jarrett Jack blow up against the Lakers on a nightly basis (well that and the sieve that is the Fisher/Farmar defensive tandem). The Lakers tend to play down to their opponents, except it's down to their 2009 versions and not the 2010 one. This is why they aren't pulling out the late W's with the same consistency last last year.
To me, this was a great shot that saved a lackluster and borderline embarassing effort by the defending champs. Each offensive possession was a teeth-pulling, ginding and abusive affair whereas Toronto seemed to score with ease. Gasol refused to dunk the damn ball on every low post move, blowing easy layups all over the paint (and getting obliterated on Lakers fans Twitter accounts). Odom took an entire half to wake up. Fisher continued to have a questionable shot selection. In the end, despite Kobe's gave winner, this isn't going in my mental roll-a-deck. But you can decide how memorable this game winner was to you, check it out: